We must fix the problem of dirty water
Posted Friday, April 20 2012 at 19:01
As we rounded the bend of the narrow dirt pathway in a small village in Central America, I noticed a small stream of water that was making its way under most houses through a carefully carved pathway.
Once inside a home — shacks of cardboard, timber and sheet metal – I discovered that the bathroom facilities emptied directly into the waterway that gurgled beneath the home.
I do not know the origin of that stream, but did follow it to where it emptied into a larger, still-body of water. Here, the inhabitants washed clothes, bathed and gathered drinking and cooking water.
Those who have visited Kibera have witnessed a similar scene.
A report this week by the World Bank says that Kenya is losing Sh27 billion annually because of dirty water. It touches half of Kenya’s population and is cited as a cause in 27,000 deaths annually.
The problem must be fixed. The report says that Kenya needs to build 1.2 million latrines and invest millions of dollars annually in various projects.
Further, the country can’t move ahead economically until this is done. A temptation is to blame the problem on the politicians, note their high and corrupt lifestyles and to give up all hope of moving ahead.
Or to get caught up in the crisis of the day and to have attention diverted.
While 60-plus ministers meet in Washington D.C. this weekend to discuss the issue, let’s not wait for them to come home to begin talks on how to squander the money that will most likely be sourced from places like the US and Europe.
If anything is truly going to happen, the people must do it. Hence an opportunity for entrepreneurs, church groups, individuals and businesses who truly want to lift up their country and save lives.
I have been told by doctors that the largest life-saving invention in modern history is the flushing toilet. The other saving grace has been access to clean drinking water.
Statistics show that the newest, brightest innovations are now coming from the developing world, a massive switch in an area that was once dominated by the inventors in America and elsewhere.
An example is the new water filtration system that has been developed by Tata in India. Called Swach (“clean” in Hindi), the device costs less than $22 (Sh1,800) and meets all of the US standards for clean water. Cost per litre is 22 cents.
Think that it doesn’t make a difference? Women spend an estimated 200 million hours a day looking for clean water, according to Water.Org.
On the toilet side, philanthropist Bill Gates is offering significant research money to universities who will study how to build cheaper and more effective sewer systems.
Some of that work is being funded in South Africa, but there’s no reason that a Kenyan inventor or university cannot get into the act.
Think of how much manpower is lost because half of the nation’s population must search for a private place to defecate each day. And when that waste contaminates drinking water, cholera and death can be the result. We must all get to work on ending this problem in Kenya.