Parallel to its matchless significance for the development of a given country, the water resource is also the major development challenge. Like many other countries, there are a number of factors that affected the development and management of water sector in Ethiopia. To address these issues, the government is taking measures to secure basis for sustainable development and management of country’s water resources.
As the water policy clearly stated, the ultimate goal of the policy is to enhance and promote all national efforts towards the efficient, equitable, and optimum utilization of the available water resources of Ethiopia for significant socio-economic development on sustainable basis.
To improving the living standard and general socio-economic well being of the people, food self-sufficiency and food security in the country, water supply and sanitation coverage, achieving improved environmental health conditions, generating additional hydro-power, enhancing the contribution of water resources in attaining national development priorities.
The adage that runs Ethiopia is the water tower of Africa is common. Of course, Ethiopia has huge surface and ground water. According to sources, the country is endowed with 122 billion cubic meter from the surface and 36 billion cubic meters from ground water. Contrary to this reality, the resource is not available in space and time fairly across the country. Among the 12 river basins, Abay, Tekeze, Baro-Akobo and Omo-Ghibe river basins have constituted 83 percent of the water share along with 40 to 50 percent of the country’s population around. While the rest of the basins have only 17 percent of the water share with half of the country’s inhabitants. This is the very reason that makes the water resource in the country an unevenly distributed reserve.
Even to worth, water share per head is between 1000 to 1950 meter cube which labelled the country as water-scare nation. As the population increases by the year 2025, this number would be dwindled and would take the country to water-stress category with less than 807 meter cube per head. Besides, only nine percent of the hydropower potential and six million hectares of land of the 42 million hectares of irrigable land has been developed through irrigation. The scarce water resource, which has not been developed properly due to various reasons, is highly demanding to have adequate facilities and professional staff to harness efficiently and effectively the sector.
It is against this backdrop the Ethiopian Institute of Water Resource was established in 2012 under Addis Ababa University. Institute Director Dr. Geremew Sahilu said the water resource is scarce and have not been developed yet. So we need to focus sustainable water resource development. For this, the first thing is human resource in the sector and capable institutions. With the motto : Building Ethiopia Water Future the institute aims to education and research and outreach community service since the last five years to produce capable professionals.
To water resource engineering and management, and water and health in MSc and PhD programme focused on farming, water supply, energy, environment, with multidisciplinary approach. Through water and health program students are being enrolled in water treatment, water treatment and water and public health.
The first fundamental thing is producing competent human power for sector development. The Institute is striving to produce high level and competent professionals in the water sector and so far 51 students in second degrees and 11 scholars in PhD graduated in multidisciplinary fields in water resource management and, water and health, according to the director.
The institute is playing significant role in producing water sector professionals. Currently, over 80 PhD and 19 MSc students drawn from 28 first and second generation public universities are attending their studies through the higher education capacity building in water resource program.
Though the institute is young enough with its capacity, it is undertaking various researches works on Nile River and its tributaries.
Dr. Geremew said the development of energy, per capita consumption and production is a vital index to determine to the development status of a country. In a country like Ethiopia where agriculture is the dominant source of economy the water resource development is key. “ We can do anything for agriculture. We can do high tech research but it is nothing without water,” he highlighted.
As to Dr Geremew, neighbouring countries like Egypt and Sudan have well furbished water research institutes. There are 12 well furbished laboratories of water research institutions in Egypt under the ministry of water in which many of the European countries use these facilities. The same for Sudan, they have well organized Hydraulic Research Institute.
Considering the country’s potential, “ We need to have many more professionals and institutions in the water sector. Water research infrastructure is still yet developed. Strengthening universities’ and research institutions’ coordination and other actors in the sector is a real time concern,” he noted.
The expansion of higher learning and research institutions on water sector is instrumental in addressing shortage of lack of professionals to harness the scarce water resource. Establishing well furbished institutions responsible for producing capable professionals is a sine qua non for the country’s development.
Scholars have the same perspectives on the need for sustainable water resources development and management requirement of new knowledge and applications developed through higher education, research and outreach. To achieve this, the gap in brining highly trained professionals and institutionalized higher education and researches in sustainable water resources as well as lack of coordination among stakeholders is mandatory.
Ethiopia, as a country endowed with abundant surface and ground water resource, does not have sector focused institutions and well equipped professionals to develop the key resource for the realization of overall development of the country.
As the country’s water strategy is believed to make meaningful contributions towards achieving a broader national development objective of poverty alleviation and sustainable human resources development, producing skillful professionals is way out to harness the existing water resource in sustainable manner.
It is worth mentioning here that the institute is producing considerable number of water professionals in a very short period of time. Besides, enrolling students from public universities would also help empower universities teaching water related issues across the country. It is certainly building the country’s water sector capacity.
As to Dr. Geremew, the institution is in a building up stage and is facing lack of facilities and instructors. However, the institute is working in partnership with local foreign universities to address shortages of instructors and other facilities with other foreign learning and research institutes.
There is no future for Ethiopia without water. Water is the centrepiece for realization of the aspirations of GTP and national vision of becoming middle income economy. Therefore, the country is in need of skilful water professionals. The government and all pertinent actors need to extend support for the institution to make centre of excellence for its quality education and research endeavours.
BY HAILEGEBRIEL BINIYAM