Provide safe, clean drinking water to people, my goal: Dr Negash

Dr Negash Wagesho, an adroit alumnus of AMU has always brought laurels to his alma mater, presently, being Board Chairman, he is guiding the university and on other having become State Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation, he is assured to transform this crucial sector, which, he feels, reassuringly will have far-reaching impact on the lives of over 100 million people. 

In a brief conversation on the sidelines of 18th international meet on sustainable water resources development, Dr Negash, has revealed the strategic stance of government on the issues of vital importance pertaining to his sector and characteristically lay bared his ministerial priorities.

When asked, Ethiopia, despite termed as ‘Water tower of Africa’, continue to reel under scarcity, he said, potentially, we have around 122 and 35 Billion Meter Cubic surface and ground water reserve respectively, but it’s not fully exploited; for the reason that some of our resources aren’t feasible. It requires sufficient financial resource to tap these humongous resource, which is a big challenge and even professional capacity to plan, design and manage is inadequate.

He adds, many emerging universities are engaged in water resource education and training, but there is an urgent need of high-profile scientific community, who can plan, design and manage water resource infrastructure at woreda, regional and ministerial level. There is a need to pull resource persons from academic research institutions and abroad who can transfer knowledge to the working group and supplement governmental endeavors.

Exemplifying further he said presently government is investing huge sum annually, especially five development sectors i.e. water, electricity, health, agricultural and education attract robust budget. He admits problem of capacity of implementation at woreda, regional and ministry level.

He said adding, we have mega projects, some of them demand import of costly equipment from abroad, but currency exchange rate hinders their development; in that case we have to pull resources where all donors will jointly act to make impactful intervention in key areas i.e. water supply and sanitation.

On irrigation, he said, as per mid-Growth and Transformation Plan-II, 500,000 hectares of land is under irrigation, but it could be more as traditional component isn’t included in it. Ethiopia has traditional, modern, medium and large-scale modes of irrigation wherein government is bringing all implementers together and driving information management system to know which areas are irrigated, to be irrigated, ongoing efforts that should be reported as one unit to set the standard.

GTP-II irrigation target is immense as it demands huge sum, we have invested modest amount in this sector because we need money for other sectors, but now government is paying huge attention to irrigation and duly allocating huge budget as well, Dr Negash disclosed.

Substantiating his views, he said, we are here to explain as to where we are in terms of irrigation, sanitation and water supply planning. The scientific community, especially universities and research centres have to fine-tune training, education and research so that it could meet national demand; we have showed the gaps, what’s to be done and how ministry will collaborate with them; hopefully, they will soon do needful to deliver the expected deliverables.

My priority is to provide safe and clean drinking water to all nations and nationalities; as per mid-GTP report, we have achieved 60% of coverage while remaining 40% is expected to be done in the next two years by fully utilizing government budgets and resources drawn from NGOs and civic bodies. Resources will be mobilized and community’s participation will be sought for water resource development.

On food security, he said, we are looking for nexus between food, energy and water; food comes from agricultural sector so that it has to be linked with energy sector. For agro-industry, we are developing small-scale industries that need energy; wherein water resource development is inter-linked; we are trying to ensure this connectivity that will spur economic development.

When asked where he expects him to be after 10 years, he said, I have no personal ambitions, ensuring access for over 100 Million people to safe and clean drinking water is my goal. At times it looks tough, but ameliorating people’s lives is always gratifying. And over the years, leading AMU’s Institute of Technology and Regional Water Bureau, I have learnt a lot from my superiors, colleagues and co-workers that knowledge will be used to address key challenges in my sector, he quipped.

(Corporate Communication Directorate)