Water remain elusive in Africa

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Story by Evans WAFULA
Nairobi, Kenya
Photo by Fredrick Mugira, Uganda

NAIROBI, Across East Africa, drought is again ravaging millions and dangerously leaving many more to be dependent on food aid, the United Nations has warned that the situation might be worse. But even as the World Day was commemorated in Cape Town, South Africa, the continent wear on, its effects –more drastic coupled with poor municipal management strategies- environmental potent as the continent is faced with looming environmental uncertainty as a result of climate change that continue to rake havoc in Africa.

Women and children bathing in Kitagata Hotspring in Uganda

In crowded, iron-sheet settlements in Cape Town, as well as in Kenya’s northern enclaves of Marsabit and Samburu, widespread crop failure have been reported as a result of failed rains.

This has been felt across the country where low water levels in dams have led to power cuts and acute water shortages in major cities across Kenya. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming weeks, the meteorological department has warned.

The effects have also been felt by the business community who are forced to shut down their business or resort to expensive generators.
“There’s nothing the government is doing to protect the business people here,” said Dr. Mandu Chandaria, a member of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers who has been forced to install new generators to cop with frequent power cuts. “It’s expensive to do business under these circumstances.”

Power cuts due to water shortage is hardly new in Nairobi, This time, however, the crisis is blamed to power municipal planning and lack of political will to address the problem. People are putting all the blame to the central government.

“It’s the government’s fault,” said David Kasera, a young Lawyer in the city, who lives in one of the suburbs that has not received water for the past three months and are forced to buy the commodity. “They must see this coming every few years, but they do nothing. Now they’re talking about wind farming and conservation. They should have done all of that a long time ago.”

The City of Cape Town has managed to up hold with its success in the provision of water to all and enhancing conservation methods.
The story especially similar in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the government has been rationing electricity for months. In the midst of a construction boom, cement factories there are slowing production and have long waiting lists for the product. Small-business owners are suffering.
While in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, the government is now rationing water, and city dwellers are returning to the days of fetching river water or paying unsuspecting vendors to buy unsafe water.

Perhaps in Kenya the situation remains complex, coupled wit both natural disasters and human nature and political effects. The systematic destruction of the country’s primary water catchment area, the vast Mau Forest is a case in point. Politically motivated land grabbing and institutionalized corruption in the water sector has left people helpless without access to adequate clean water.

Rivers that feed lakes, water farms and hydroelectric power plants have drying up.

Water rationing and power cuts are affecting residents of Kibera slum and other up markets areas. People are lining up for hours as water trickles in drips.

“It takes me 45 minutes to fill this bucket,” said MaryAnn Mwangi, a mother of three, who had finally reached the trickle and was dipping an old plastic bucket. She needs to do five more rounds a day in order to fetch enough for a family.

Normally, in Kibera slums, neighbors get water from shared water points, the use of which is usually covered in the monthly rent. However, the situation has changed a water mafia that guards one of the few water points has taken charge of selling water and has succeeded in vandalizing all the water points not under their control.

The Nairobi Water Services which controls and installs water meters with Nairobi is now in arrears and has also not been able to pay its bills to the Water Board of Kenya. This has even made the situation worse with the WBK disconnecting water in Nairobi. Cases of bills not being issued in time to corruption in the sector have been sited as a factor that is preventing people to access the commodity.

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