English translation by community member Anna L.
The city of Bukavu, formerly known as the Switzerland of Africa for its green hills, lakes, rivers, and mountain climate, is divided into three municipalities.
Today, the city has expanded and encompasses rural-urban municipalities and peripheral neighborhoods. Its hills and lake fronts have been invaded by random construction. According to city hall statistics, Bukavu had a population of 459,070 in 2004, which grew to 622,477 in 2009. An exodus from rural areas and lack of security in the province's interior mean that this number is constantly growing.
The Water Distribution Authority, REGIDESO, provides the city's water, but despite its modernized equipment, the Authority always provides a deficient supply. Throughout the year, thousands of REGIDESO customers have no water flowing from their faucets.
To facilitate what little access the population has to water, several NGOs have built tap stands. Subscribers for each tap stand number 150 to 200 families.
During the dry season (June through August), REGIDESO and the residents of Bukavu suffer a dramatically reduced water supply. For several years now, REGIDESO has recorded increasingly lower water levels at this time at catchment sites in the Murundu hills approximately 10 km from Bukavu.
This reduced availability leads to a deficiency if not a total lack of water in almost all municipalities and neighborhoods. Therefore, people, particularly children, go to collect water for their families at marked source points, generally near homes in the lowland areas.
Since vacation began, from 5 in the morning, I hear children running in the lane facing my house drumming empty plastic containers. When I wake up at 6, I see other children in the lane and still others returning, filled containers in hand or on their backs. Going to the office, I see more groups of children, girls and boys with 10- to 20-liter containers. Many have gone to neighborhoods 2 kilometers from their homes. On the city's main artery, I see many cars with containers of water.
In my neighborhood, the only time water flows from the faucet is for a few minutes after midnight. This means I have to stay up every night to secure two to three 20-liter containers of water, which I use very carefully.
Though water scarcity in Bukavu is nothing new, every year the residents' ink flows and their voices raise in complaint. Everyone is upset by the fact that children have to spend their vacation fetching water. I hear people's complaints in the media every day. Consumer rights organizations are constantly denouncing our lack of water, which, above all, deprives children of their rest.
As someone facing this recurring shortage, I share the generally held view that the seasonal drying up of water sources can be attributed to environmental destruction caused by cutting down trees; now the dry season lasts too long, longer than it used to.
As a parent, I find it depressing to see children, girls and boys, all day long with containers of water because I support respect for children's rights and people's socio-economic and cultural rights.