Mozambique water woes (1) - Climate change, geography and capacity

Mozambique water woes (1) - Climate change, geography and capacity

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Date: 16th February 2017
Author: CDKN Global
Type: Feature
Organisation: Global Water Partnership
Country: Mozambique
Tags: sustainable water management

How much fresh water is available to people, where it is and how it is managed are probably the most important questions in water security. Miren Gutierrez of CDKN looks at the context in which CDKN and the Global Water Partnership put in place a capacity building programme aimed at improving resilience in Mozambique. This is part I of a two part blog; read the second one here.

Capacity building was identified as a key element in water security and resilience in two wide-ranging surveys with water experts and decision makers across Africa that was realised as part of the CDKN and Global Water Partnership (GWP) programme.

The results of this capacity building programme were lasting, according to Sarra Touzi, of the Global Water Partnership. The participants – mostly decision makers— became resilience “ambassadors” and still collaborate today in resilience-related activities, she says.

Being the principal means through which people, economies and ecosystems experience the effects of climate change, water should lie at the centre of planning for resilience. However, the level of human capacity to engage actively in water security within the organisations represented in a survey across the region had been mostly “low” or “modest” at the beginning of the programme.

In fact, in Mozambique, water resource management suffers from “unclear institutional roles, coordination and reporting mechanisms,” ineffective “information sharing,” “inadequate cross sector collaboration,” insufficient financing and investment in generating knowledge and technology transfer, and “limited perspective of the top decision makers about the importance of constantly engaging in transboundary cooperation,” concluded a 2013 report of the GWP.

But the climate and geographic context in which this water management takes place in Mozambique is also a critical element of this equation.

Climate change and water in Mozambique

Drought has been a recurrent hazard in Mozambique. The current El Niño drought continues to affect 1.5 million people, while ReliefWeb was anticipating that up to 2.3 million would still need food assistance until March 2017.

Meanwhile, cyclones, floods and rising sea-water levels are also a problem. According to PreventionWeb, floods, droughts and cyclones, in that order, were responsible for most disaster-related deaths from 1994 to 2014 in this African country, while cyclones and floods alone were responsible for most economic losses. January 2015 saw devastating floods in Mozambique, while low rainfall in the southern African region for the 2015 -2016 wet season led governments to declare the worst drought in decades. Crop failures across the continent have deepened food insecurity.

In the face of more frequent and extreme events, climate resilience seems key for the development of this country of almost 26 million people.

That is why, Sustainable Development Goal 6 – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all — does not only have strong linkages to all of the other goals, it also underpins them: meeting it “would go a long way towards achieving much of the 2030 Agenda,” says the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. “There is an urgent need to enhance the profile of water management in national and regional development planning processes, and to recognise water management as a key strategy in building climate resilience.”

Geographic dimensions

The challenges of Mozambique's water security include geographic circumstances. “52% of the Mozambique territory is located in international river basins, but Mozambique represents only 20% of the total area of these basins,” says a paper published by Francisco Tauacale, a researcher with the Eduardo Mondlane University. Besides, “more than 50% of the surface water of the country are inflows at the border.”

“The management of these shared river basins and reaching agreements with the other riparian countries on water sharing and integrated water resources management is thus a priority for Mozambique,” he says. Other challenges include the lack of modern technologies for data collection, transmission and processing.

Mozambique´s geography and climate is very varied. This country – twice the size of California, with a 2,470km coastline—includes coastal lowlands, central uplands, high plateaus in the northwest and mountains in the west. Apart from floods and droughts shaping and moulding the landscape, vast areas of the interior of the south-centre (Incomati, Umbeluzi, Limpopo and Pungue) suffer the loss of both land and biodiversity caused by salt-water intrusion, resulting from the low discharges of effluents, concludes Tauacale.

Water in Greater Maputo: A story of urban development

The water supply troubles in Greater Maputo are also a result of disorganised and quick urbanisation. After the independence, “accelerated immigration” to Maputo “initially took place without any type of formal housing supply to meet increasing demand,” says a report published by LSE Cities. Without much government control or planning, informal development began to mushroom around the Mozambique capital until an urban development team was created within the Greater Maputo city council in 1980, says the report.

Rapid urban expansion continued through the 1990s up until the present day, according to the report. Like so many other ‘developing countries’ with a limited urban budget, the national and local governments find themselves in a state of never-ending upgrades, with little political will or funding to prevent sprawl in the first place. Recent pilot slum-upgrading projects showed only marginal positive impacts given the momentum of urban expansion underway both through the densification of inner city areas and through the urbanisation of new land on the periphery.”

Urban growth continues today outside of Maputo’s official boundaries, says the report. “In recent years, international agencies, notably UN Habitat through its Cities without Slums initiative, have once again refocused their attentions on slum upgrading projects, rather than on curbing unplanned urban expansion.”

In 1986, Mozambique “embarked on a structural adjustment programme as a condition for obtaining donor funds particularly from the Bretton Wood institutions,” says a paper published in 2002 by Zandamela. The privatisation process began in 1989. Following the National Water policy adopted in 1995, it was decided for private intervention in supplying water, and this resulted in the first water concession in 1999.

However, the results of a workshop held early in 2001 with stakeholders pointed to both “great efforts from the company in its first year of activity,” together with “great dissatisfaction on the part of the public about the poor level of services.”

The company Águas de Moçambique supplied water in Maputo and bottled water under the brand Agua de Namaacha, informs Bloomberg. In 2011, it changed its name to Águas da Região de Maputo (Waters of the Maputo Region), following an expansion in its system to cover the district town of Boane, according to MacauHub (which quotes other sources). Since its creation, the company has been responsible for the water supply to the capital under the terms of a concession established with Fundo de Investimento e Património do Abastecimento de Água (Fipag), reports MacauHub. The concession runs until 2019.

But “water service delivery to most residents of peri-urban areas of greater Maputo depends largely on alternative service providers, mostly in the form of small-scale independent providers,“ says a paper published by the South African Water Research Commission (SAWRC). “The conventional, public potable-water utility serves only a small portion of residents. Many people, especially those living on the city’s outskirts, have no choice but to buy water from informal sector providers… Autonomous water supply systems operated by small private operators emerged in the 1990s, and have now become key players in Maputo’s water sector,” adds a report published by the Africa Development Forum (ADF).

These private operators drill their own wells; use private financing for their investments, receiving no monies from international aid projects or the public sector; and operate “without formal authorizations,” says ADF. The SAWRC paper, based on “extensive water sampling and analyses,” concludes that “the aquifer vulnerability to external contamination (e.g. by E. coli and nitrates) is low,” but its “vulnerability to sea sea-water intrusion is high.”

“The success of the small operators rests on a combination of several factors: very strong demand for services because of supply deficits, an entrepreneurial private sector, abundant and easily accessible groundwater, and a supportive institutional and legal environment,” says ADF. “Through their responsiveness and speed to support urban development, small private operators have gradually emerged as the only operators capable of responding to the city’s growth. Donors have begun to support their initiatives, trying to bring them into the formal sector; donors offer better financing conditions and access, and they integrate these small, private water installations into master plans.”


Image credit: Mozambique - Maputo Ferrovario Water Collection - John Hogg - 090615 (21)

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