Paulina Quintao – The Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations of Timor-Leste (FONGTIL or NGO Forum) challenges the new government and its commitment to solve water issues across the country, 16 years on since the country gained independence given communities continue to complain about lack of access to clean water.
The Director of FONGTIL, Daniel Santos do Carmo said so far successive governments have prioritised physical development, including large infrastructure projects and electricity, but people's other fundamental rights to education, health, and clean water, continue to be a challenge for the community.
He said the big infrastructure developments, such as airports, highways, and the ports are necessary, however, people also have an urgent need to address basic needs.
"Our problem is actually not the lack of water, but the poor water systems that exist and lack of maintenance," he said in his office, Kaikoli, Dili.
He added so far, the government and its development partners res-ponsible for water and facilitating water networks in the municipalities, also established Water Facility Management Groups, but these groups are left with no support to ensure their water systems do not break down.
He hopes the new government will support the people, and allocate the necessary funds to all sectors, including agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure.
He said it is necessary for the government to create sound policies to preserve and conserve water sources and to socialise in the community about the importance of water to life.
In reply the Minister of Public works, Salvador dos Reis Pires said the government already has a master plan for water for the municipalities of Dili, Baucau, Lautem, Viqueque, and Manufahi that has not yet been implemented.
"We intend to invest in clean water in 2019. We will begin with a viability study to validate the amount of funds we will need to invest," he said.
He said in the interim, as a short-term measure, the government intends to rehabilitate existing clean water systems, and address water and plumbing issues in neighbourhoods that have an impact on running water volume, not allowing it to reach households.
He added though that the budget allocation for 2018 was small and limited, so future interventions will depend on the existing funds for investment in this sector.