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Lamu without water as power to supplier cut over Sh3m bill

Monday August 26 2019

Lamu Water and Sewerage Company

A signboard outside the the Lamu Water and Sewerage Company premises. The Lamu Archipelago has been hit by acute water crisis after Kenya Power cut electricity supply to the water company over Sh3.6 million unpaid bill. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Lamu County is without water following an ongoing dispute between the Lamu Water and Sewerage Company (Lawasco) and the Kenya Power company (KPLC) over Sh3.6 million unpaid electricity bill.

The Nation has established that the acute water shortage begun on Thursday last week after the electricity company cut power supply to Lamu’s main pumping station in Lamu Town.

The move resulted to a population of over 30,000 people in Lamu being left without water in their taps.

HOTELS

Sectors that have been mostly affected by the water shortage in the Lamu archipelago include hotels and industries with guests reportedly avoid spending their time in some hotels.

The situation has also affected some operations at the Manda Airport.

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Mr Abdallah Saary of Nurulyaqeen General Merchants in Lamu said that for the past six days, he has been experiencing water shortage in his house and at his workplace.

Mr Saary said it was unfair that despite paying all water bills to Lawasco, the entire Lamu archipelago is being punished due to somebody’s mistakes.

“It’s very unfair for us to be punished due to failure by Lawasco to pay the electricity bills to KPLC. Why are they doing that? We’ve cleared all the (water) bills in our homes and we only expect services to be delivered. It’s now the sixth day without water in our homes and business places. We need an urgent solution,” said Mr Saary.

TOURISTS AFFECTED

Mr Ali Abubakar, a hotelier in Lamu, said the situation has contributed to some tourists and other guests shying away from booking rooms in his hotel due to lack of water.

“Since last week, I’ve been losing guests in my hotel who opt to go to other hotels that have water. Most of the hotels here are now forced to use water from wells after their reserved water also got finished. We need a permanent solution to this problem,” said Mr Abubakar.

A spot-check by the Nation also established that residents of Lamu Old Town, Shella, Manda, Kashmir, Bombay, India and Wiyoni have been forced to use untreated water from open wells in the town which poses a health risk.

Lawasco MD Paul Wainaina.

Lawasco MD Paul Wainaina. He insisted that the Sh1.17 million power bill in question is disputed. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

DEMOS

The residents threatened to hold a huge demonstration this week to push the county government of Lamu to urgently address the matter.

“How can we stay without water for a whole week and yet we’re not even told when the problem will be resolved? We’re using salty water from open wells which is risking our lives. What is the county government doing? They’re just silent while wananchi are suffering? We will demonstrate,” said Mr Is’haq Khatib.

Contacted, County KPLC Business Manager Bernard Kataka confirmed to the Nation that they disconnected electricity following an accumulation of an unpaid power bill by Lawasco totalling to Sh3.6 million.

According to Mr Kataka, Lawasco has a total of 39 active small commercial electricity accounts with Kenya Power.

Each of the accounts serves at least one borehole, most of which are scattered around Shella Waterworks on Lamu Island.

AMOUNT OWED

“Lawasco owes Kenya Power a total of Sh3.6 million. This figure excludes this month’s total billing which is yet to fall due. So far the 39 small accounts have a total outstanding balance of Sh2.25 million. The figure has no dispute so far though we’ve been demanding full, immediate payment before supply restoration. Additionally, they have one large power account with a debt of Sh1.17 million. This is for the main meter that powers their central pump house. This main pump house receives water through a central storage from all the boreholes in Shella and pumps it out to consumers. It is this large power account that is in dispute. Hence our polite request stands that Lawasco settles the pending debt of Sh2.25 million on all the small commercial accounts as we await a reasonable proposal for a full payment schedule of the Sh1.17 million owed to us on the main account,” said Mr Kataka.

UNCALLED FOR

But addressing journalists in his office, Lawasco Managing Director Paul Wainaina said the move by KPLC to cut off electricity, resulting to the suffering of thousands of their clients due to lack of water, is uncalled for.

Mr Wainaina defended Lawasco, saying it has been very prompt in paying its bills most of the time.

He insisted that the Sh1.17 million in question is disputed and that there is an urgent need for KPLC to explain how the amount was arrived at.

“We’ve written several letters to KPLC seeking for details on the matter but KPLC has not responded to any of those letters. It’s only on August 20 that KPLC responded and two days later decided to disconnect power. Let it be clear that Lawasco has been very prompt in paying its bills. We even paid Sh391,857 for the month of July prior to even being issued with a bill. It’s only the Sh1.17 million which we’re disputing as Lawasco. We want KPLC to explain to us how the amount was arrived at,” said Mr Wainaina.