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Nouakchott tackles water shortages

By Bakari Gueye for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 13/07/11

Poor Mauritanian families will soon have access potable water, thanks to an initiative from the Nouakchott City Council (CUN) and the European Union.

The project launched last week aims to "pursue a number of activities such as the provision of drinking water storage tanks to the Tarhil region, the construction of a track to improve access to sources of drinking water for people living in outlying areas, and repairs to public sources of drinking water," CUN chief Ahmed Ould Hamza said.

"The partners' converging efforts and projects will make it possible to gradually resolve the major issues affecting access to water in the city of Nouakchott," he added. "This shared experience is attracting interest from other partners, such as the city of Lausanne."

About 800 million people around the world today do not have access to drinking water, even though it is recognised as a universal human right by the United Nations, according to Hans-Georg Gerstenlauer, the EU Ambassador and head of the delegation to Nouakchott.

"As happens in many large African cities, there are huge inequalities in Nouakchott in terms of access to drinking water," Gerstenlauer added.

He also observed that in some districts, households that were not connected to the National Water Company (SNDE) network paid "several times more for water than well-to-do families living in central districts served by the SNDE network".

"This initiative, which is very much aimed at the disadvantaged, is intended to give them easy access to high-quality water at a price they can afford," the EU official added.

Last year, the Mauritanian government launched the Aftout Essahli project, aimed at increasing the potable water supply for Nouakchott by transporting water from the Senegal River.

"The Aftout Essahli installations include several components, the main ones being a water tower with a capacity of 129,000 cubic metres, a water treatment facility and a main pumping station," said Mohamed, who works for the SNDE.

The project, however, has not solved the problem in terms of quantity or quality. A study carried out by the SNDE shows that "the supply network is not watertight and is subject to external faecal contamination".

Experts point to poor infrastructure and old sewerage systems as causes of the failure.

According to Sidi Mohamed, a former SNDE employee, "the daily level of water consumption in Nouakchott, which is 17 litres per person on average, is still below the WHO standard, which is 20 litres per day per person".

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