Kenya: Low Knowledge Levels On Water and Integrity Reported, Despite Huge Funding In the Sector

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Mary Mwendwa
March 21, 2014

Many Kenyans have no idea of where to get quality services on water related issues despite the huge financing the sector has attracted in the recent times; Water experts have noted.

Climate change phenomena and poor planning and pollution are some of the factors that have left many Kenyan’s taps dry.

For example, in Nairobi town, 20 years ago, the city had clean and safe drinking water for its small population by then. With a current population of 3 million, with a majority of its population living in informal settlements, clean, affordable and regular water is no longer guaranteed to these people. Water cartels have flooded the water market, making the basic commodity expensive for people.

In Kibera, one of Kenya’s largest slums, water goes for 10sh per 50 kg container. A price that many say is far too high depending on the water they need to use in a given day.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya
Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

According to Athi Water Services Board, a body that is mandated to oversee water supply in Nairobi, informal settlements are yet to be incorporated in their plans. They say many dwellers in the sector cannot afford the connection fee for water supply .They however, add they are working with partners like World Bank who to see how these people will be placed in the water connection plans of the city.

Agnes kyoli, a mother of three in her late 30s,who lives in one of Nairobi suburbs, Kasarani, complains, “I only get water three times per week in my house, any it only flow very late at night. This means that I have to cut down on my sleep and spent almost the whole night fetching this precious commodity. My bill of 800 ksh per month remains the same. I have no idea who to complain to. I am now used to this water problem.”Same sentiments are echoed by her neighbor who seemed so annoyed with the whole issues.

Prof. Munguti says the water sector is facing huge challenges that without proper legislation more and more taps will still run dry in the country. So much water is lost to unscrupulous dealers with illegal connections.”We need a law that will regulate all these and also the law should be able to reduce the number of too many water regulatory bodies which confuse the public on their roles and mandates. I believe these many bodies might be just another hub for corrupt individuals who will always play blame games as people suffer.”

He also notes how County governments have a major role to play on water sector. “Counties can come up with their own water use plans and supply enough water to their people without any problems,” he concludes.

More than half the diseases worldwide are caused by dirty water like the one above.
More than half the diseases worldwide are caused by dirty water like the one above.

During a tour that was aimed at collecting views from people about the proposed water bill 2013, many people had less information on where to access water information. “For example in Coast province, knowledge on water was too low as compared to other regions in the country. In western human rights and water integrity was the hottest issue among the community members.

In Tana River district they had issues with national regulatory body which manages water in the region. All these are just some of the indicators that give us an overview of how many Kenyans have less information regarding water accessibility,” Prof.Munguti Katua, Centre For Social Planning administration Development (CESPAD) says.

The Kenya water Act 2002,spearheaded more resource generation , government commitment and development partners which has resulted in a proposed water Bill 2013 which is still being worked on.

Water Resource Users Associations (Wruas) with their current functions of equal distribution and sustainable use of water is among the success stories , the water sector has managed to come up with.

These are eight regional Water Services Boards (WSBs) in charge of asset management through Service Provision Agreements (SPAs). The Act also created a national regulatory board (WASREB) that carries out performance benchmarking and is in charge of approving SPAs and tariff adjustments. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation is in charge of policies for water supply and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation is in charge of policies for sanitation.

The Bill however, points out areas of major concerns; unclear mandates, where citizens are not able to hold the government to account, appointments to the bodies, where there is limited cushioning of the institutions from political interference by appointing authorities.

To improve on governance in the sector, it recommends; a defined framework for monitoring, evaluation and reporting for the proposed institutions and devolved structures so as to encourage information sharing in public participation in decision making and a need to plan for frequent water forums by stakeholders , where water issues would be discussed and recommended.

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