Safe drinking water is essential to humans and other life forms even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Springs are often used as sources for bottled waters, while tap water delivered, through man-made plumbing installations, to homes can also be a source for drinking water. For the water sources to be utilized safely, it is important for them to undergo the required treatment and meet drinking water standards to reduce the negative consequences, such as contamination; because it can be life-threatening. Throughout most of the world, the most common contamination of water is from human sewage, particularly human fecal pathogens, and parasites. Eventually, those who consume water prone to such contamination become victims of waterborne diseases and death. Therefore, it is clear that people, especially in developing countries, need to have access to the good quality insufficient amount, water purification technology, and availability and distribution system for water.
Understanding the use of water in securing the continuity of life, the Ministry of land, water, and environment has been working relentlessly to improve the lives of many in the country. Eritrea as part of the Sahel- Sahara, relies on seasonal and irregular rainfall that varies considerably from year to year where it gets low precipitation one season and lower or higher the next season. Therefore, water is a precious resource that should be conserved and distributed wisely.
Before independence, getting access to drinking water, especially in the rural areas, was very hard as children and mothers had to travel hours to get water for their daily activities and mainly for drinking. Most of all, children and mothers were victims of not only the long-distance but the unsafe water they fetch for drinking. Around the time of independence, the accessibility of water and distribution covered only 7% in the rural areas and 30% in the urban areas. After independence until 1997 however, the distribution improved dramatically through the introduction of manual water pumps in rural areas and promoting soil and water conservation. On top of that, water stations were built in many villages and somehow eased the problems of water supply. As a result, the percentage increased from 7% to 20% in the rural areas in 1997. As efforts continued to maintain this progress, solar energy was also introduced as replacements for the manual water pumps and the development surfaced during the years that followed.
According to the Director-General of the Department of water development and projects in the Ministry of land, water and environment, Mr. Msghna Gebreslase, sufficient and safe water is one of the pillars in ensuring the health of citizens in a country. Therefore, the main task of this department is to pave a way for citizens to safeguard their health and ensure their continuity by providing them easy access to water especially those who live in remote areas. He also added that the government has been working thoroughly in this sector despite eminent challenges over the past thirty years. Building dams in villages can be taken as an example and it has reduced health risks and granted the dwellers access to drinking water. Mr. Msghna added that the department earnestly works, as a priority task, to provide people in all corners of the country access to potable water within their locality.
Besides, the department has been extending water pipelines for as long as 15 to 30 kilometers in various villages and towns. Some of the localities that benefited from these installations are Nakfa, Areza, and Mai-dma. With the introduction of solar-powered water pumps, especially in the above-mentioned localities, efficient distribution of water from the source to water stations and some households in some cases has been secured. Not only that, water supply and distribution which was estimated to be 30% in the urban areas during the wake of independence has increased by three folds.
According to documents from the Department of water, over 80% of the villages in Eritrea have become beneficiaries of clean water. However, to ensure this achievement, many obstacles had to be vaulted. This includes the geographic location of some peripheral villages and the need to the relocation of scattered households and establish new villages to make the installation of the projects practical,
By making the needed efforts and allocating a total budget of almost 5 billion Nakfa, 1,738 villages became beneficiaries of clean water through the construction of micro-dams, distribution of 285 generators, 479 solar energy sources, and 932 manual water pumps. Mr. Misghna stressed the active participation of the local population in the completion of such projects in line with the government’s commitment towards that cause.
Finally, Mr. Misghna explained that the water projects across the country have made a huge change in the livelihood of the people, especially in the rural areas. Aside from that, he stated that there are also plans to replace the generators, still in service, with solar energy sources, through which the huge consumption of fuel could be brought to the minimum. In addition, he mentioned that studies will be conducted in the near future to identify projects that have terminated services for various reasons and the needed remedies will be made to restart those projects. Last but not least, Mr. Msghna concluded in his interview that the major priority of his department is focused on reaching those few villages that have no access to clean water.