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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Kenya Suffers Severe Water Shortage

Nairobi, Kenya

By Philip Emase

A serious water shortage has afflicted Kenya’s capital city and several other key towns, raising fears of a possible disease outbreak.

Some households in Nairobi have not received any supply since April due to a flawed water rationing plan, and health officials have warned of a possible outbreak of cholera and other water-borne diseases.

The shortage has prompted the sacking of the entire management board of the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC), which was incorporated in 2004 to streamline water supply in the city.

The company has been blamed for allowing illegal water connections and mismanaging the city’s water reserves, therefore exacerbating a dire water situation initially triggered by inadequate rains.

“Some staff members were involved in the cartels that have illegally connected water thus worsening the shortage, ” Nairobi Mayor Godfrey Majiwa told reporters after chairing the council meeting that fired the board.

Officials of the water company are believed to have corruptly conspired with wealthy and influential people to divert water to private homes and farms at the expense of the standard supply lines. For instance, investigations have found that 89 water connections initially meant for Nairobi have been supplying water to Kiambu, an agricultural district bordering the city.

The government has promised to hinder any further action by the unscrupulous “cartels”.

“The water ministry and the Nairobi Water Company will work closely to ensure that such cartels will be dealt with accordingly,” Water Permanent Secretary David Stower warned while commissioning a new borehole at Kahawa West Estate.

Water vendors in Nairobi have meanwhile been making hefty profits in this scarcity, with no regard to the health hazards posed by the untreated water they supply.
In the Western city of Kisumu, residents have resorted to tapping water from Lake Victoria, surrounding seasonal rivers and uninspected wells.

Kenya’s economy, already under strain from the global economic crisis and the after-effects of the 2008 post election violence, is likely to experience tougher times. Two of the country’s key hydro-electricity power plants at Masinga and Kiambere have been shut down for lack of adequate water for electricity generation.

In Nakuru, three factories - Flamingo Bottlers, Coil Product Kenya and Kapi Limited - have had to close down for lack of water to sustain their operations.

At the world famous coastal resort city of Mombasa, the peak season is approaching and many hotels are investing in emergency water storage systems to insulate their businesses from the water crisis.

The Kenya government has commissioned the emergency drilling of 50 boreholes in various parts of Nairobi as a short-term intervention, and has promised to sink another 22 new boreholes by the end of August.

A new dam will also be constructed to supplement the Ndakaini Dam, which supplies 80 per cent of the city’s water. Ndakaini holds 70 million cubic metres of water at optimal capacity, but at the moment, the level has dropped to a mere 26 million cubic metres.

A smaller dam, Sasumua, has been under repair but the water ministry has promised to have it functional by the end of August as well.

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