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Contamination of community potable water from land grabbing: A case study from rural Tanzania

Serena Arduino
ACRA (Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina), Milan, Italy; serenaarduino@acra.it
Giorgio Colombo
ACRA (Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina), Njombe, Iringa Region, Tanzania; giorgiocolombo@acra.it
Ofelia Maria Ocampo
ACRA (Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina), Milan, Italy; ofeliaocampo@acra.it
Luca Panzeri
ACRA (Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina), Njombe, Iringa Region, Tanzania; lucapanzeri@acra.it

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses a large-scale land deal which resulted in the contamination of water sources in the Iringa region of Tanzania, and the negotiation process which followed. An area of 1400 ha was rented to investors for agriculture and livestock-keeping. These activities caused contamination of the water sources which feed a water supply scheme managed by a downstream local community and serving a population of 45,000. While there are mechanisms within Tanzanian law to limit potentially polluting activities, establish protected zones around water sources and empower water user organisations to exercise control over activities that damage the quality of water, in practice, in the Iringa region, these were not effective as many procedures were not followed. This paper examines the cause of this, the effect that these failures had on downstream access to safe drinking water and the subsequent (largely successful) process of correcting the damage done.

The paper discusses the direct causes of water contamination (the use of fertilisers and pesticides and the presence of cattle) and the indirect causes (unclear administrative boundaries, lack of participation and transparency, procedures not followed and limited resources). The negotiation process and its outcomes are described. From this study we conclude that stakeholder communication and transparency are key elements in anticipating and preventing the arising of such situations. Often, these are in short supply when large land deals occur. In this case, ex-post solutions were arrived at. Finally, the paper looks at the broader dimensions of land deals that pollute the water feeding a water supply scheme. Such situations are a clear violation of the human rights to safe drinking water -€“ an issue that has not yet been sufficiently documented in the literature and which merits further attention.

KEYWORDS: Water contamination, water source protection, land deals, transparency, conflict resolution, Tanzania