Water supply shortage is galling for Sululta because the town is situated in the highlands, where rainfall is abundant for about four months of the year.

By William Davison (The Guardian) |

SULULTA, ETHIOPIA―Towards the end of the day at the Abyssinia Springs bottled water factory near Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, workers hose down the car park liberally. Outside the gates, residents of the Sululta area trudge along the road with empty yellow jerrycans that they will fill from muddy wells and water points.

Over the past decade, the town in Oromia region has attracted plenty of investment. A Chinese tannery, steel mills, water factories and hotels have sprung up.

The boom has also lured workers for the building sites that litter the district with piles of rubble, electric cables, and eucalyptus tree trunks used for scaffolding.

Officials appointed last year amid a wave of unrest admit that they do not know the exact size of Sululta’s population. The local government has failed to keep up with the town’s chaotic growth over the past decade, which has contributed to anti-government sentiment.

Further protests by the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – whose discontent is rooted in claims of injustice and ethnic marginalization, as well as maladministration – could undermine official efforts to rectify the situation, not least those by the head of the water bureau, Messay Tadesse.

Although investing in water infrastructure is challenging for a poor country, funding is not the problem in relatively wealthy Sululta, according to Messay. Instead, he believes corrupt management of the land rush, a lack of demand on investors to protect the environment, and the government’s inadequate planning and data collection have contributed to the crisis.

“When the public burned the investments down, it was not that they wanted to damage them. It was our problem in managing them,” says Messay.

Initially peaceful, the protests that began in Oromia in November 2015 evolved into the angry ransacking of government offices and businesses after security forces used lethal force to disperse crowds. Human rights groups estimate that up to 600 people were killed across the country.

Continue reading this story on The Guardian
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