Ethiopia: The water crisis

The initial words from the British poem, The Ancient Mariner, by Coleridge, "water, water every where, but not a drop to drink" truly reflect the grim reality in our country. The paucity of the rains last season have left 15 million compatriots starving in a country dubbed as the "water tower of Africa" by Emperor Haile-Selassie in the late 1950s.

The water problem in Ethiopia is not just a cyclic lack of rain. It is the inability to harness the potentials of the already existing rivers that flow the whole year round and to manage more effectively other available water resources.

A comprehensive study carried out by UNESCO, which was released last week, says that Ethiopia has the lowest amount of water actually available to the people in the world. According to the study, the country also has one of the poorest water supplies, with only 11 other nations in a worse state. What is more, only 1,749 cubic meters of water are available per person per year, while French Guyana, which ranked top in terms of access to water, had nearly 500 times as much, one learns from the study.

Statistics aside, it is only enough to examine the plight of citizens affected by lack of potable water. The gruesome condition of residents of Harar who have been crying in the wilderness for water for decades now is a horrifying instance of the state of affairs we are in as far as water supplies are concerned in this country. Recent news reports had a worse story to tell. Springs went dry in a town called Finoteselam in Amhara region, leaving the entire population in the town without water. The level of the water of lake Zeway is falling significantly; and irrigation agriculture in the surrounding area is now in great jeopardy.

The situation in the capital is no different. More often than not, there is a cut in water supply in most parts of the city. There are even some quarters of the city that are permanently short of this basic source of life itself.

While millions go hungry for lack of rainwater, others go thirsty for lack of access to potable water. And to think that this is the "water tower of Africa"! It is the permanent headache of Africa in many ways. It is incumbent upon the powers that be to work zealously towards the amelioration of the worrisome situation.


Addis Tribune
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