Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kenya's urban centres face acute water shortage

Water vendors in Nairobi's Kayole estate. Water shortage has hit the City and its environs and the resident fear that the shortage might result with various diseases. PETERSON GITHAIGA

Water vendors in Nairobi's Kayole estate. Water shortage has hit the City and its environs and the resident fear that the shortage might result with various diseases. PETERSON GITHAIGA  

By DAVE OPIYO

Taps in nearly all urban centres across the country have run dry, leaving residents dejected, miserable and thirsty.

Water reservoirs are now very low and the situation is bound to get worse if it does not rain soon.

The Nairobi’s main water reservoirs at Ndakaini and Sasumua are at alarmingly low levels.

Despite this, the residents remain hopeful as they wait for divine intervention.

In the meantime, they want the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company to be fair in its water rationing.

The unfair water rationing programme, they say, had worsened the crisis with many households not getting water even for up to four months.

The situation is the same in Mombasa where many residents go for as long as one month without water.

“Despite paying monthly bills to the Mombasa Water and Sewerage Company, we have to rely on water from vendors,” says Michael Embasa, a newspaper vendor living in Likoni.

Ms Christine Mjomba from Mshomoroni in Mombasa also says they depend on vendors who sell water from an unknown source.

In Nairobi, the Nation toured a number of city estates, especially in the Eastlands area, where the situation is becoming desperate.

At Pipeline Estate in the Embakasi area, there has been an increase in the number of water vendors who are cashing in on the crisis. A 20-litre jerrican was going for between Sh25 and Sh50. Some families were spending up to Sh250 daily on buying water.

At Tassia Estate in the Embakasi area, a water vendor, Mr Fabulous Ng’ang’a, popularly known ‘Ngash’, said that since the rationing programme started, his business has been good.

The water merchant tactfully evades the question of where they get their water in the face of the persistent shortages, only saying that “we get them from those who have it.”

The water shortage problem has also been witnessed in parts of Donholm, Greenfields, Savannah and especially Kayole where the price of a 20-litre jerrican could go as high as Sh80.

In South B Estate, Mr Nicholas Mbevi also complains that the water supply to the estate has been erratic.

Along Thika road, residents of Githurai Kimbo, Kahawa West, Zimmerman and the environs have also complained of not having enough water.

The same also applies to the Ngara area, where one resident admitted to have gone without a bath for days.

The government has already put in place contingency measures to alleviate the crisis, including drilling of 50 bore holes.

It is expected that the exercise will be concluded by next week.

In Nakuru, some factories have been shut down due to perennial water shortages in Nakuru as residents increasingly depend on vendors.

The companies include Flamingo Bottlers, Coil Product Kenya Limited and Kapi Limited.

The shortages have become a common thing in the town, with some residential estates getting almost no water all year round. Shabab, Kenlands, Lake View, Teachers and parts of Race Course estates are among the hardest hit areas.

But the problem is worse in some low- income estates like Bondeni, Kaptembwa and Kwa Rhonda, where the residents are struggling to put a meal on the table. The water is sold at Sh20 per 20-litre can.

Ms Mary Kamau of Pangani Estate said the water problem had made life more difficult given the current hard economic times. “Washing my family’s clothes has become very difficult because the water is expensive,” she said.

“You do not know whether to buy water or food. It is even worse for us because vendors sell water in large quantities only, which makes it unaffordable for poor families,” she added and urged the government to intervene.

The residents get water from 13 boreholes, but it is rarely sufficient considering that the population has shot up from about 400,000 in 2004 to the current 800,000.

The town also gets its water from Malewa and Mereroni rivers, which are drying up because of the long dry spell and destruction of the Mau forest.

The shortage could also be due to unscrupulous consumers and businessmen who either do not pay their bills or are involved in illegal connections.

Business operations in the town have been hampered by water rationing, with hotels bearing the brunt. The situation has forced them to buy the commodity from vendors. Mr Peter Kinya, a prominent trader, said the acute water shortage was affecting business and development of the town.

But the Nakuru Water and Sewerage Company said the situation has improved compared to a few years back.

Managing director John Cheruiyot said a total of 70,000 cubic litres of water is needed per day while they were only able to supply 30,000 litres.

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