West African urban polls find clean water top priority

DAKAR – Rapid urbanisation has caused so many problems in the Senegalese town of Tivaouane-Peulh that the government and aid providers don’t know where to direct their limited resources.

The population of the formerly rural commune near the capital Dakar has roughly doubled in the last decade to reach 80,000 people. Only 13 percent of residents are connected to the power grid and 30 percent have running water. People who used to make their living by farming and herding are out of work.

“There are many challenges linked to urbanisation. I think it is representative of the issues facing towns in Senegal,” said Tivaouane-Peulh’s mayor Momar Sokhna Diop.

So Diop partnered with a lab at the University of Dakar to implement a survey process asking citizens what they need most. Part of the Resilient Africa Network (RAN), the regional lab is one of four across Africa funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The poll found that people value water access above all else, including transport, waste collection and income-generating activities. On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being “very important”, asking the government for more household water connections was ranked 9.7.

“The problem (of water access) is much more serious than we had thought,” said Mayor Diop at an event in Dakar last week where he was presented with the results.

Politicians tend to implement projects with quick outcomes that can help them get re-elected, but these do not always correspond to the community’s long-term needs, he added.

“This (poll) allows us to see if we are on the right track.”

Source: Angola Press News Agency