There is tension all around due to water. At the African Union earlier this month Egypt had issues with hosts Ethiopia and Sudan over the Nile water, and the main reason was the Great Nile Dam, the largest dam in Africa that Ethiopia built alone for $4.2 billion, with no loans.
Some Kenyans in the north also have issues with Ethiopia over lake dams, as do others in Somalia over the Shabelle River that has dried up and whose condition some attribute to Ethiopian dams near Godey and Genale.
Cape Town is also in the news. South Africa’s second-largest city was expected to run out of water on April 29, but that has been pushed back to May 18.
Here in Kenya, we are dealing with prolonged droughts that have affected the economy. All reports indicate that rain led to crop failure and animal stress, and that resulted in reduced food production, higher food inflation and lower exports of tea in the first half of 2017.
Newspapers and Twitter have carried stories about Cherangany Hills Forest evictions, Mau Forest depletion, and people in Embu wondering who is cutting their forests.
The Ministry of Energy has said it shut down the legendary Masinga Dam from generating electricity. Water levels at Ndakaini Dam, which supplies Nairobi, have dropped, according to satellite pictures. Evergreen Londiani has dried up. Some kids in Baringo are skipping school to search for water. And charcoal harvesting in Kitui is causing tension between communities.
In Nairobi, trees are cut to allow more billboards to be visible, and Ngong Forest is vanishing, according to Kibra MP Ken Okoth, while Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana has warned about sand harvesting, which has destroyed riparian vegetation and farmland as people are illegally scooping sand and widening river banks.
And when the rains eventually come, they will wash through the dry country. It has now become a regular occurrence that every rain storm that lasts more than twenty minutes results in flash floods that destroy houses, sweep bridges, or block roads in places like Kileleshwa, Kitengela and Narok.
Also, there are residents in Nairobi who no longer pay for water. They are entirely reliant on blue lorries with “Clean Water” painted on the side that deliver thousands of litres of water to supply them for weeks. They do this because housing estates whose water and sewage systems were designed for maisonettes and bungalows now host highrise flats and office towers that exponentially increase the consumption of water in an area, resulting in dry taps.
Many restaurants and even top hotels occasionally have to summon water trucks. The residents who buy water have taken themselves off the grid. But these private solutions to a public utility problem are not sustainable in the long term and there is sometimes tension between the counties that host dams whose water is supplied to other counties while many of their own residents are water-starved.
But it is not all doom and gloom for water. The snow caps are back on Mount Kilimanjaro, and last December, just before Parliament went on its long recess, Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut introduced a motion that called for compulsory tree planting at all learning institutions and individual households.
COMPULSORY TREE PLANTING
He said that Kenya’s forest cover, which was 13 per cent in 1963 but is now down to 1.7 per cent, should be restored to 10 per cent. This would be achieved through compulsory tree planting using the NYS, the Kenya Army, corporations, and Kenya Forest Services, and noting that the current CDF law allowed up to 2 per cent of the fund to be used for environmental purposes.
Chepkut’s motion was supported by members of Parliament from both Jubilee and Nasa sides, in a brief moment of solidarity that did not involve their welfare.
And Monday brought an announcement that a Kenyan startup, HydroIQ, had topped 600 other start-ups from 52 countries to win the “Startup of the Year Africa 2018” in Casablanca, Morocco. HydroIQ, founded by Brian Bosire and Victor Shikoli, is a virtual water network operator that aims to make the distribution of water more efficient in urban areas by preventing losses through automatic billing and payments.