The 48 000km² Panagani River basin faces unique demands on its water resources. Starting high on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, the tributaries of the Pangani nourish a multitude of ecosystems before emptying into the Indian Ocean. One section of the catchment, the Eastern Arc Mountains near Kenya, is rated as one of the top 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world.

On its 500km journey, the waters of the Pangani support some 3.4 million people, many of whom live in the three urban centres of Arusha, Moshi and Pangani, but most eke out a living as subsistence crop or livestock farmers. Commercial agricultural interests are continuously growing, with high value goods being exported to various corners of the world, and three hydropower schemes, located along the main river, are used to generate up to 17% of Tanzania’s electrical power. In short, the successful management of the basin’s water resources has to integrate all environmental, economic and social demands, trading their various costs and benefits against each other. 

In the world of water management, an Integrated Flow Assessment (IFA) is a useful tool to inform such decision-making. It identifies the needs of each water user, including the environment, evaluates its economic value to both the basin and the nation, and balances this against the future availability of water.

“We feel strongly that in a water-stressed and developing basin such as the Pangani, you can’t just consider environmental flows without looking at the social and economic costs and benefits of this and alternative water allocation scenarios,” says IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Coordinator for Water and Wetlands, Kelly West. “Water allocation is about trade-offs. It is not a coincidence that the various aspects of our assessment coincide with the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.” 

This holistic approach is being promoted in Tanzania through the country’s National Water Policy of 2002, and the Integrated Water Sector Management Plan of 2004. However, such high level awareness does not, necessarily, translate to basin-level buy-in, or even understanding.

This has been a key lesson learned by the Tanzanian Ministry of Water who, in partnership with the IUCN, the GEF (UNDP) and the EU-ACP Water Facility, is in the process of conducting a comprehensive IFA for the Pangani basin – the first of its kind in Tanzania.  

“It requires commitment from all stakeholders. You have to have champions at a national and a basin level,” says the Ministry’s Director for Water Resources, Washington Mutayoba.

Mutayoba places great emphasis on the role of basin water officers (management officials, placed by the Ministry in each of Tanzania’s nine water basins) to communicate the message of collective responsibility for water resources. 

The Basin Officer in Pangani is Hamza Sadiki; a man well aware of the enormity of his task.

“Every sector in the Basin has a requirement for water use, now and in the future,” says Sadiki. “We need to raise awareness (of sustainable water use) among all of them.” 

While the link between livelihoods, economic development and ecological health is recognised in an FA, it can be tenuous. 

“As the work develops, new issues come to the table that need to be dealt with in a consultative and equitable manner,” explains Coordinator for the Pangani River Basin Water Management Project, Sylvand Kamugisha, who works closely with the Ministry’s basin office in the implementation of the FA process. 

With thirty years of water resource experience, Kamugisha has witnessed the degradation that occurs when integration and appropriate allocation is not upheld in a basin. He is one of the “champions” of the FA within the Pangani and coordinates the collection of much of the ecological, social and economic information that is populating the process. He is also a master of the rhetorical question.

“What other choice is there than to integrate water resource management, when there as so many users?” he asks. 

Kamugisha’s point indicates an acceptance that the waters of the Pangani are limited and the demands are high. The allocation of each user’s water, across the triple pillars of sustainability, must be sufficiently informed and equitably distributed for maximum benefit to the basin, its people and Tanzania.
Written by Alex Hetherington