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Analytical summary - The physical environment

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According to Swaziland Country Environmental Profile (2006), ecosystem biodiversity is threatened by lack of protection and land conversions, which are projected to halve the area of potential protection-worthy ecosystems. In addition, the country is projected to see the introduction of a very dry tropical forest type of ecosystem in the eastern part of the country, replacing half of the current subtropical ecosystem as a result of climate change.

Housing conditions vary greatly in rural and urban areas. More than two-thirds of households have access to improved water sources, and three in four households are within 15 minutes of their drinking water supply. About 73 per cent of urban households have water piped into their dwellings or yards, while about 23 per cent of rural households have direct piped water. Rural households also rely on public taps, surface water and dug-protected wells for their drinking water.

The SDHS (2007) also shows that in the urban area alone, sustainable access to improved water sources increased slightly from 89 per cent in 1997 to 91.9 per cent in 2007. The latest study by the Swaziland Water Services Corporations (SWSC) reveals that access to improved water stands at 95 per cent in 2009.

On the other hand, the SDHS indicates that sustainable access to safe drinking water in rural areas has been improving since 1997 from 40 per cent, to 54 per cent in 2007 and 59 per cent in 2009. Based on current commitment, it is anticipated that potable water supplies in rural areas will increase to 61 per cent by year-end 2010, through the installation of 60 micro (hand) pumps and the completion of three macro schemes. Projections are that by 2013, rural water supply will increase to 72.8 per cent.

Groundwater quality in Swaziland is mostly suitable for domestic use, except in the Lowveld where occurrences of high salinity have been observed. However, contamination of groundwater sources is a potential threat to the future value of these resources. The most likely forms of contamination include bacteria, viruses, hydrocarbons, pesticides and nitrogen. On the other hand, access to sanitation in rural areas has improved significantly to 56.7 per cent from 45 per cent in 2005.

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with relevant stakeholders has more than doubled the construction rate of VIP latrines from 2000 to 2009. According to the Swaziland Country Environmental Profile (2006), production of solid waste is increasing, but Swaziland lacks adequate capacity and infrastructure to efficiently deal with waste management. A policy and legal framework were developed in 2005. Statistical data on waste generation and service are incomplete because not all urban areas are serviced, and rural information is largely missing.

Waste is weighed and licensed landfill records reviewed only sporadically. Reliable data on waste generation is needed to develop realistic and affordable waste-management plans. As described in the water supply section above, it is assumed that existing sanitation facilities are still in good working condition. In rural areas, some pit latrines last two to three years before needing replacement. This factor needs to be considered when compiling the percentage of households with improved toilet facilities.