|The Somaliland Times|
|ISSUE 42 November 9, 2002||
Hargeisa's Water Shortage Dilemma II
Eng: Abdi M. Farah (Abdi wiiwaa)
Somaliland has made great improvements in many areas since the end of Siad Barre’s regime. However, due to the struggle against injustice with the old regime and having been in refugee camps in neighboring countries, the Somaliland people become immune to any type of shortages of products or services. The Somaliland Diasporas are disappointed with the lack of progress in the infrastructure of the country. As visitors they tour around the nation and try to evaluate the progress made by the government year after year. A government with same meager revenue could have done more planning, rehabilitation, maintenance, and implementation of infrastructure projects, if the leaders were not so busy with their political ambitions and connections.
The most successful stories in Somaliland are from the private sector (aviation, communications, small industries, import and export). The public also had enough fighting, misery and are preoccupied with their own lives. Let me come back to my main topic Hargeisa’s water shortage Dilemma II.
A few months ago I wrote an article “Hargeisa’s water Shortage Dilemma” without specific personal knowledge of the situation, except public information I gathered at that time. But this time, I went home to Somaliland as a concerned citizen and as an engineer to find ways I can assist both the water Agency and the Somaliland Road Authority (SRA). The SRA is responsible for all the major roads excluding roads within city limits. While I was in the city, I was a self-invited guest in the water agency and the SRA offices. The director of Hargeisa’s water agency had welcomed me and asked his staff to cooperate with me. I am very thankful to him and his staff that helped me gather information from offices, wells, pump stations and water storages. The City of Hargeisa has grown tremendously both in population and number of dwellings. The city’s population is currently estimated to be between 500, 000 and 600, 000. However, the water supply did not grow with the city’s population, therefore the water demand is too high and the existing water supply system can not met the demand. The city of Hargeisa has at least 50,000 to 70, 000 houses and only 8,000 houses have running. water for about 4 to 6 hours per day, while the rest of the city’s residents collect their water from water points (Kiosk) or delivered by donkeys.
When a city grows as Hargeisa has, the planning department, water agency, the health and other services should have planned and implemented accordingly. In Somaliland’s situation, it is difficult to blame the municipality although they are not totally free from blame. In my opinion the Ministry of Planning and Resettlement should have done more than they did, which is too little in any city of Somaliland. For example, the largest Hotel in Hargeisa today does not have sufficient water supply due to lack of water pressure from the only two main 12” pipes that feed the whole city. They are depending on a water storage tank built by the owner of the hotel. The tank is filled daily by water trucks. In addition to the hotel, there are large sectors of Hargeisa residents that lack water service and 1/4th of the city has continuous running water. In order to reduce continuous shortage of water in the south of the city; an immediate remedy must be implemented by the water agency. One solution could be a storage tank with a high capacity pump to relief water shortage in peak hours. Other solutions can be implemented while major overhaul is underway.
Hargeisa’s water agency is one of the busiest in the capital city. Sometimes it seems like you’re in the livestock market (saylada xoolaha). The agency collects enough money to maintain itself and currently fund small projects without outside help, therefore, if the management team has the proper authority to manage the revenues, and plan projects for new water mains, storages, rehabilitations and maintenance, it would result in a better and more efficient water agency. The power to be also should have the authority to hire and fire staff instead of keeping huge staff with overlapping duties.
The City’s water shortages are manageable and can be fixed in in-house, but the management has to be restructured from the current “status quo” and start implementing changes from top to bottom. The water shortage is not due to lack of water resources, but lack of management authority and absence of public influence and not excluding the authority of the presidency who has the authority to make a world of difference.
The water agency collects more money than any other agency in the city, except the city’s municipality department. However, it still lacks procedures to collect all the dues from private homes, businesses, government offices and homes. In my research, I have discovered the worst offenders are the government offices and residential units. In order to eliminate the water shortages, the following issues must be re assessed thoroughly and efficiently: Revenue collection improvement, overhead cost and staff reduction, and creation of new department with capable managers, chemist, engineers and procurement officers.
Collection of dues has been a problem for the agency for many years. This new management structure shall be improved by changing the policy of collection procedures and punishments. For those who refuse or unwilling to pay their bills, they should be punished by cutting off their water services, even if it’s the presidential compound. I believe each ministry or government agency have their budgets including funds for paying water bills for each fiscal year and these funds should be deducted and deposited directly in the water agency’s bank account. In this way, the agency can generate an income of $150,000 to $250,000 per month, instead of the $70, 000 to $90,000 per month they collect now, according information I received. In the current situation the agency is losing huge revenue, which could be used to buy all the material and equipment needed to add another main line to relief the system within a short time. If the collection is improved and new houses are added to the existing customers of 8000 houses then the Agency can generate more funds to improve the current situation quickly, and construct new project for future development.
Most of the agency’s money is spent on running and maintaining the power generators and the motors running the water pumps in daily 18 hours operation. The running of the generators and the pumps, plus maintenance of other equipments cost the agency $1500 per day. The veteran employees said that it is too much and can be reduced to 50% to 60% by purchasing of two 300kw generators to run as a small power plant. The system then would be synchronized as a unit, instead of ruining each well or pump separately. The two generators will not work simultaneously but take turns. The work needed to complete this project might not take more then sixty to ninety days. The second largest cost is keeping a staff of over three hundred employees whose duties overlap, and in most cases, do not get paid well. The staff that runs most of the machines and those collecting dues are very demoralized due to lack of recognition of their hard work. Those who do a good job for the agency shall be rewarded and others should be demoted from their position for unsatisfactory work or dismissed according to a clear policy without tribalism and nepotisms. Decentralizing of the work force is a necessary step to reduce the staff and generating efficient work force. The pay scale of the employee shall also be ranked and revisited each year. The health and the safety of the staff should also be addressed by the new management authority.
Generating of new department might sound radical but it will improve the agency to attain professional managers, engineers, chemists and procurement officers who would work as team to meet the challenge of producing high standard water quality and services. As a new department they would maintain the current system, rehabilitate, plan, and propose new projects. Their duties will also include locating funds, designing, and constructing of network system. The new department will also design a laboratory to test the water for microbiological, chemical, radiochemical and aesthetics. Although there was a lab in one of the substations it doesn’t function anymore.
In conclusion, I would advise the Somaliland authority and the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB), specifically the water, sanitation and infrastructure sector to put more emphasis on ways to improve the water dilemma before it becomes an unmanageable crisis, which seems inevitable if serious thought and firm implementation is not induced. The water, sanitation and infrastructures meeting in Hargeisa February 2002, HE Minister Mohamoud Abdi Farah and The Director General of the Water and Mineral Resources asked to secure funding for the Hargeisa water agency and since then I have not seen any discussion about that need or effort in any of your monthly meetings. The need of the entire city’s residences must be met by the Agency that has the responsibility to satisfy each resident as customer. The city of Hargeisa’s water agency needs assistance from the International organization to upgrade the main water supply system as the THW (German NGO) is involved in Berbera and Boroma at present time under the European Commission. My gratitude is extended to all public service employees who tirelessly serve their people with little or no incentives.