15,000 people living along the banks of River Manafwa are at risk of a serious cholera outbreak because of the contamination of the river.
Last year over 30 people in Mbale and Manafwa were killed and 290 people were infected in a cholera epidemic. The outbreak was blamed on consumption of contaminated water from River Manafwa.
A ministerial statement presented to parliament revealed that River Manafwa is contaminated all the way from Bugobero in Manafwa through to the lowlands in Butaleja. Most of the pollution is from human feces.
George Wopuwa, the Bubulo East Member of Parliament, says few lessons were learned from last year's cholera epidemic. He says that although the river is still being contaminated with human waste, many people are using it as a primary source of water.
Sarah Netalisire, the Manafwa Woman Member of Parliament, says this problem is compounded by the high cost of piped water. She says only 46% of the population in Manafwa has access to safe water and most of these are unable to afford it.
Last week the Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment launched the rehabilitation of a 126-kilometer gravity flow water scheme. The water scheme broke down in 1998.
MPs from Mbale, Manafwa, Pallisa, Tororo and Butaleja, whose districts are supposed to be serviced by the scheme, say the rehabilitation is commendable, but insufficient to meet the high demand for safe water.
Geoffrey Ekanya, the Tororo County MP, says that instead of spending millions sinking boreholes, government should channel the money to expand the gravity water scheme. He also calls for a revision of prices to make water more affordable for all Ugandans.
Peter Okwi, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation Officer for Eastern Uganda, says the corporation's goal is to provide water to as many people as possible. He says the price of water can only be reduced if the number of people connected to water increases. This, he says, is dependent on availability of funds for development from government.
The Woman MP for Tororo District, Grace Oburu, says waiting for government to provide the money will take too long. She proposes the introduction of cheap, easily adaptable water harvesting technologies that can be provided at a low cost to people in rural Uganda.