Gov’t wants water prepaid metres full swing, WUC officials worried it is not best option
The Government has dispatched a team of Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) staff on a benchmarking exercise to Israel. The team is tasked with exploring on the impending implementation of domestic water prepaid meters locally.
The benchmarking mission to Israel follows government’s proposal to the parastatal (WUC) to go full swing on domestic customer prepaid metres.
Weekend Post has established that following Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Mokaila’s visit to Israel, he found out that the country has valuable lessons that “we can learn from in prepaid metering and water conservation.” Israel in particular is regarded as a role model, among others, in terms of water resource management in the world.
The MMEWR Minister’s earlier visit to the country involved signing bilateral agreements with the country during the official visit as well as informing the current benchmarking exercise.
Kitso Mokaila confirmed in a brief interview with Weekend Post on Thursday this week that indeed they are “exploring both prepaid and smart water metres for water management” in Botswana. The Minister added that already he had a team which travelled to South Africa for the matter and “I have the same team going to Israel to explore possibilities.”
An immaculate source at the high echelons of the WUC also pointed out that: “we are currently engulfed by customers’ unwillingness to pay their water bills and prepaid metres are seen as a solution in collecting money first and effective in water conservation as it naturally cuts costs.”
Some countries which are currently using prepaid water meters include Brazil, Curacao, Egypt, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, the Philippines, Uganda, and the United States.
In Botswana prepaid metres have only been used in public stand pipes and the government is involved in establishing the potentials of enrolling the prepaid metres at homes across the country.
To prove the commitment of government with respect to water prepaid metres, the water utilities called on some Contractors to submit expressions of interests (EOIs) and company details for the installation of prepaid water meter systems and automated meter reading (AMR) water consumption meters at its sixteen (16) management centers that are spread across all villages and towns in Botswana.
Although the evaluation of the tender documents, which was closed on March earlier this year, is not yet completed sources say the MMEWR minister and by extension the government are both adamant to forge ahead with the implementation of the prepaid metres come rain or sunshine.
Weekend Post has gathered that some in the utility corporation who are against the prepaid metres advised government that if they go the prepaid route, they should tread with caution as it is not as easy as with regard to electricity prepaid metres. The source said water prepaid metres are a problem and there are less success stories especially in the African continent. “Therefore due diligence in handling it has to be exercised,” he warned.
A study from the World Bank Group’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) analyzed the experience of 8 African cities: Kampala, Lusaka, Maputo, Maseru, Mogale City, Nakuru, Nairobi, and Windhoek, using prepaid meter systems and found out that prepaid water remains controversial.
“Proponents see it as a way to improve customer relations, revenue, and access to services; critics complain about technical unreliability, high capital and maintenance costs, and a system they see as penalizing poor customers,” the study posits.
Because the technology is relatively expensive, the study says it does not absolve service providers from sound financial choices and management, such as charging economic tariffs, or policymakers from thinking seriously about how to finance subsidies for the poor.
The study which was authored by Chris Heymans, Kathy Eales and Richard Franceys states that prepaid metering demands robust regulation beyond the current tendency of regulators to treat it as something experimental and marginal. “Perhaps most powerful of all is the message that prepaid water is ultimately a technology: it is not intrinsically pro- or anti-poor, and it is not a substitute for sound management,” the study asserts.
The study maintains that prepaid water is not a miracle cure. “It is not obviously costeffective for the provider; it has not been consistently reliable; and it comes with substantial demands on management.”
The report aims to be both frank and objective in its message that prepaid systems do not offer a miracle cure and that unless utilities do careful assessments and get effective management systems in place, they may well find themselves swapping one set of problems for another.
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.
The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.
He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison. In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned. Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.
Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated
He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated
He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted
Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.
‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it. ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated
He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added
He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.
Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’
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Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”