Archive for April, 2011

April 22, 2011

Corruption to Blame for Africa’s Under development

By, Evans Wafula
April 22, 2011

Nairobi, Kenya-Africa’s long quest to achieve the Millennium Development Goals is far from realization and is doomed to fail if radical reforms are not enforced in urban managements in Africa. Kenya’s housing Minister; Mr. Soita Shitanda has warned.

He expressed fear on the pace of urban development in Africa and has blamed it on endemic corruption in a continent ravaged by poverty and diseases despite huge resource potential.

“Although many African countries have viable national frameworks for urban management on the continent, corruption remains the major challenge in Africa and is the main cause for under development in Africa,” Mr. Soita Standa, added.

The 8 Millenium Development Goals

After the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Africa is still struggling to meet her development targets. An estimated 1.1 billion people remain without safe drinking water and about 2.6 billion have no access to adequate sanitation. Almost 1 billion people, most of them in developing countries, live in slums, with constrained sanitation. This is figure expected to double over the next 30 years.

That was the dark picture painted at the World Water Day 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro to forge common standpoints on urban development and urbanization in order to promote access to water and sanitation.

In Africa, the importance of this is the rapid rate at which African countries are becoming increasingly urban societies and monitor the implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg in 2002.

During the Cape Town conference delegates mostly from Africa also under took to reviewed the progress in provision of water, access to sanitation and human settlements, as envisaged at the 2005 African Minister’s Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) held in Durban, South Africa in 2005.

“Africa continues to stagnate in realization of her MDGs painting a stark picture on the face of increased challenges of urbanization”. Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa said as she underscored the importance of dialogue on water and sanitation issues globally.

Although the expectation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015, an estimated 300 million people in Africa are faced with lack of access to safe drinking water and 14 countries on the continent suffer from water scarcity. With domestic water use below 50 liters per person per day in over 55 countries (the minimum requirement set by the World Health Organization), 35 of this countries are in Africa. An estimated half of people living in African suffer from one of six main water-related diseases.

Water Borne Diseases

According to a 1990 report by the UN Development Programme, the proportion of urban dwellers with access to safe drinking water in Sub-Saharan Africa only declined slightly from 86 per cent to 83 per cent in 2000.This slow trend was not expected to change much towards 2015 due to the complex nature of urban development in Africa.

Delegates at the WWD 2011 also identified lack of money and technology as the major hindrances to solving Africa’s urbanization problems and called for increased investment for water supply and sanitation in Africa and to deal with lack of resource capacity.

African governments were encouraged to involve the stake holders at the grassroots and encourage equal participation of the local communities in solving their own problems through participation in order to access the challenges of urbanization.

April 22, 2011

Bio-sand Filters Introduced to Curb Water Crisis in Cameroon

Story by Lum Edith Achamukong
Photos by Helen Ngoh
April 22, 2011

Cameroon, Fifteen women selected from some Councils and Divisions of the South West Region have been trained on how to set up and manage water filters for household and community use amidst increasing water crisis rocking the region. These women, mostly leaders, are expected to subsequently train other women in common initiative groups, ‘njangi ‘ (meeting) houses, and schools on this filter that filters water through sand and gravel.

The two day training was a collective effort by the ‘Association of Women for Peace Buea’ and the ‘Global Women’s Water Initiative’ to enlighten trainees on how to convert water fetched from streams, springs and rivers to potable water. Technical and material support was received from the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) established since 2001 to take care of the water needs of local communities. The centre has been actively working on the field in some if Cameroon’s ten regions for the past three years. CAWST uniquely designed the bio-sand filter ten years ago to meet the needs of even the poorest communities, reason why setting it up requires local materials.

Women washing sand in buckets during the training

According to a technical adviser from CAWST, Canadian born Emilie Sanmartin, water from any source can be passed through the bio-sand filter and consumed without any fears given that the instrument has the ability to remove up to 99% of pathogens. However in most cases, sand from quarries is the best because it is pure and void of contamination. In the process of setting up the filter, the sand is carefully selected and washed with water and chlorine.

Thought this method of water purification will arrest the water crisis in most homes, the process of setting up a single filter calls for team work. Many hands are needed to fetch and wash the sand and gravel, dry it, mold and unmold the filter frame and eventually install the filter in the house when complete. This explains why the most successful hands at this initiative have come from Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Common Initiative Groups (CIGs) since they work in teams and with the assistance of trained technicians.

CAWST technical adviser Emilie Sanmartin inspecting Bio-sand filter under construction

The president of Women for Peace Buea, Mwengele Catherine who had previously received similar training in Ghana in 2010, thinks it is a worthwhile initiative that will relieve the population of water borne diseases like cholera and typhoid.

In Buea, the absence of potable water in some residential areas like Great Soppo, Molyko, Bokwango and Bunduma is a call for concern. Women, children and of recent men rise up from bed as early as 3:00 am, and trek for long distances to take the cue to fetch potable water in public taps. This in no way suggests that the taps in their homes run dry. A water carrying time table has been instituted which permits various quarters to have water on specific days of the week or specific hours of the day. Failure to carry and store water in huge quantities leaves most households running around with containers in search of water.

The company charged with the supply of potable water in Buea is La Camerounaise Des Eaux (CDE). Authorities of this company think this method of rationing between quarters the ultimate solution for the water scarcity for the time being. Its regional manager Mr. Tengwo Stephen says CDE gets water from two main sources, treats the water and distributes to the population. The situation is so precarious that even in the rainy season when much water is treated, the demand still cannot be met. He thinks the town needs more water sources to deal with the problem.

Buea is currently occupied by about two hundred thousand inhabitants. The town has witnessed population explosion with the inception of the University of Buea in 1993 and other institutions of higher learning that have sprung up. This tremendous increase in population has not met with corresponding measures to address issues like water supply, sanitation and drainage. The large population still depends on the water scheme designed to meet the needs of a smaller population 20 years ago. For now, households, schools and health facilities shoulder the responsibility of providing potable water to their members.

April 20, 2011

120 M USD for Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Programme

Fredrick Mugira
20th April 2011

East Africa, East African Community Partner States have signed a Grant Transfer Agreement to facilitate access of the 120 Million USD availed by the African Development Fund to support the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Programme (LVWATSAN) Phase II.

The Programme is meant to contribute to the improvement of the livelihoods and health of communities in the Basin through the reversal of pollution of the Lake, improvements in sustainable water supply and sanitation infrastructure.

It will specifically reduce pollution in the Lake through improvements in the water supply and sanitation infrastructure of selected towns through five components: water supply, hygiene and environmental sanitation, urban drainage improvement, capacity building and project management.

The signing ceremony took place on the sidelines of the 22nd Ordinary meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held at the Arusha International Conference Centre on 15 April 2011.

The EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Juma Mwapachu signed on behalf of the Community while Ambassador Augustin Nsanze, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Republic of Burundi signed on behalf of his country.

The Economic Secretary in the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kenya, Dr. Geoffrey Mwau; the Director General of the National Development Planning and Research for Rwanda, Leonard Rugwabiza Minega; and Aston Kajara, Minister of State for Planning and Economic Development in charge of Investment for Uganda signed on behalf of their respective countries. The Deputy Minister of Finance of the United Republic of Tanzania, Gregory George Teu will be singing on behalf of his government.

Water Hyacinth on Lake Victoria

In his remarks, Ambassador Mwapachu hailed the signing of the Grants Transfer Agreements and urged Partner States to ensure that the programme’s resources are efficiently used in order to deliver the desired results.

The signing of the Grant Transfer Agreements follows the signing of the Grant Protocol of Agreement between the African Development Fund and the East African Community on 4 April 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. The African Development Fund is contributing 89 percent while the five Partner States will contribute 11 percent.

Fifteen secondary towns in the Lake Victoria Basin will directly benefit from this Programme. They are Muyinga, Kayanza and Ngozi in Burundi; Kericho, Keroka and Isebania-Sirari cluster in Kenya; Nyagatare, Kayonza and Nyanza in Rwanda; Geita, Sengerema and Nansio in Tanzania; as well as Mayuge, Ntungamo and the Buwama-Kayabwe-Bukakata cluster in Uganda.

The Protocol for the Sustainable Development of the Lake Victoria Basin tasks the Commission’s Secretariat to mobilise resources for the implementation of sustainable development projects and programmes.

Overall, this initiative seeks to demonstrate that the Millennium Development Goal on ensuring environmental sustainability can be achieved in a relatively short time frame and that investments can be sustained over the long term by effectively integrating physical infrastructure works, training and capacity building into a balanced and cohesive Programme of interventions.

The initiative seeks to develop the right balance between investments on water and sanitation infrastructure in the secondary towns and capacity-building at the local and regional level as means to sustain Programme benefits.

April 15, 2011


Story and Photos by Fredrick Mugira
April 15, 2011
The smell of fresh water and vegetation filled the air. It was a smell reminiscent of a cool feminine perfume in an air conditioned room. The sun had veiled itself under the clouds in a hazy sky.

To our right side, leaves strewed the path beneath short trees where four monkeys sat evenly watching us.

About twenty meters ahead of us, lay a motorized boat. It had been arranged evidently for eight people. It did not take long before we boarded it clad in orange life jackets. But not all of us did. Five didn’t. The boat could not accommodate more than eight persons.

We were a group of workmates visiting the famous Lake Mburo National park in South-western Uganda. Just for leisure. Most of us were already tired after zig-zag-ging on the bumpy roads in the park for more than two hours during the game drive.

A motorised boat on Lake Mburo

In front of the boat sat Moses Matsiko our coxswain and guide. He was positioned ready to steer the boat. He looked strong and spoke with a local accent.

Moses wore a smile of satisfaction as he switched on the boat’s engine that produced loud and shrill noise. That was the time we started our drive around ten calm square kilometres of water named Lake Mburo.

In the nearby papyrus reeds and trees sat purple, gray and black birds. They sang unperturbed by our presence. Some sat on the entrance to their nests.

The shadows of the trees, papyrus reeds, birds and their nests lengthened on top of the water. They looked like well designed pieces of art painted with light black colour. Like a flag hanging on its post being blown by slow winds, the shadows made comparable movements as the boat forced calm waters to make continuous waves.

L-R A Warthog, and two Elands in Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo is the largest of the five lakes in Lake Mburo National Park. The 260 square kilometer park is covered in extensive acacia woodland. I was told it is the best place in Uganda to see the gigantic eland antelopes and several acacia associated birds.

‘The five lakes within the park are homes to hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds,’ our guide Moses narrated to us as we sat calmly in the boat he steered at a snail’s pace.

In the boat, we chitchatted and made fun but beneath our jauntiness lay nervousness. Yes. The strange loud sound that came from the boat’s engine conveyed an impression of an exhausted device.

Impalas in Lake Mburo National Park

‘What would happened if this engine stopped suddenly?’ It was a lady seated behind who asked. ‘It can’t,’ replied Moses as he continued to narrate to us that, ‘the swamps you see over there are a home to secretive papyrus specialists such as sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonglike Monkeys and baboons.’

We had already seen most of these wild animals and snakes during the game drive. And so the coxswain did not attract my attention as he spoke. But the rampant encroachment on Uganda’s swamps by human beings did.

Particular concern has been raised in Uganda over rapid depletion of ecosystem around lakes and rivers which have lost significant portions of the wetlands around them that act as natural purifiers and breeding grounds for fish.

‘Where would such animals, birds and reptiles live if swamps like these ones were destroyed?’ i asked myself quietly further questioning the future of water tourism in Uganda.

Uganda is gifted by nature. It has over 25 big lakes including the famous Lake Victoria -the largest of all African Lakes and also the second widest freshwater body in the world. These lakes and several rivers including River Nile -the longest river in the world contribute a lot in attracting tourists to Uganda.

‘Perhaps, the need to conserve Uganda’s water bodies for their role in water tourism has been underrated in Uganda,’ I though. Tourism brings in the country over $ 800 million annually more than the total earnings of coffee alone which is only $ 300 million.

I was nosy about the earnings from the boat we were in. So I asked Moses about it. There was no reply. He heard me because i spoke loud. His attention was on a nearby crocodile. I asked again. He told me that for every East African for example, to board the Finfoot, the motorized boat we were riding in, you must pay 2 dollars. For those from the rest of the countries, it is 10 dollars. Finfoot has its sister boat- Shoebill. Like Finfoot, Shoebill is also named after the endemic Shoebill bird found this park. It is a 14 seater.

‘In the low season, each of the two boats carry tourists around the lake twice a day. In a busy season from June to September, they move around the lake over 5 times a day each,’ Moses told me as the rest of the people we had on the boat paid less attention.Their concentration was on the crocodile pausing like a snake ready to strike by the lake side.

Noiselessly, the crocodile turned and looked at us. The girl that sat on my left side swallowed some saliva as she watched it. ‘She is scared,’ I thought. There was a plea in her eyes but she was scared to translate this into words.

It is obvious. Without Lake Mburo, Lake Mburo National Park would not have been there. The park derives its name from the lake.

In turn, the lake derives its name from Mburo, the brother of Kigarama, I was told. Mburo and Kigarama lived at the exact place where the lake is. One night Kigarama had a dream that a lake was going to be formed at the exact place where they were staying. He told his brother Mburo to leave the place. Mburo refused. Kigarama went to the neighboring hill. The following day his dream came true. The place became a lake and Mburo drowned in it. Subsequently, the lake was named Mburo. The neighboring hill where Kigarama settled was also named Kigarama.
By this time, we had spent more than an hour on the lake. The boat was heading towards the starting point.

We glimmered at the hippos hiding their massive bodies in the water as they stared back at us sullenly.

‘Come again,’ Moses told us with a ring of finality in his statement as he switched off the engine of the boat while it attempted to skid at the exact point we started from.

April 14, 2011

Current Management Contract for Ghana’s Urban Water Delivery Debated

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

Ghana, The matter of the renewal or otherwise of the current Management Contract for Ghana’s Urban Water Delivery, is still in limbo, following discussions at a two-day forum in Accra. The stakeholders forum on “Urban Water Delivery,” ended on Wednesday, without any definite proposal as to whether the Management Contract for the delivery of the country’s urban water should be renewed or not. In November 2005, the government of Ghana initiated a five year “Management Contract” between the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and South Africa’s Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL) for the delivery of urban water.

The Contract, which came into force in June 2006, expires in May 2011. The purpose of the Contract was to improve the management of the urban water sector through stablising water systems, improving water transmission and distribution, and improving billing and collection of water revenue.

The subject of the performance of the contracted firm and the delivery of urban water in general since the Contract came into force dominated the discussions at the two-day forum held on Tuesday the 12th and Wednesday the 13th of April, 2011. It was organised by the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing in collaboration with the country’s Development Partners.

When the sector Minister Alban Bagbin opened the forum on Tuesday morning, he urged participants to look at the issues raised dispassionately and recommend to government a policy option that will best serve the interest of Ghanaians. He also asked them to propose an interim arrangement that will keep the sector running after the end of the Contract, and until the next option for urban water delivery is adopted.

Ghana's Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alban Sumani Kingsford Bagbin

Mr. Bagbin explained that in making such a decision, the government will examine the impact of the Management Contract in relation to its set objectives and targets, and the performance of the urban water supply in general. It will also take into consideration the views of expert consultants and the input of all stakeholders, particularly consumers.

The Minister also expected to get input from the various presentations that were made. However, at the end of the presentations, participants were of the view that no precise proposals were made for the way forward. Rather, the presentations highlighted issues that were of common knowledge to stakeholders such as the history of the country’s urban water delivery, institutional problems including low staff morale, poor maintenance culture, and inadequate capacity.

Thematic groups’ discussions also failed to come out with the exact proposal for the way forward. At the end of the forum stakeholders prescribed several options for interim management and the next steps to take. They include an extension of the Management Contract with a withdrawal plan and an amendment of the existing contract, extension of the Management Contract for a period of between 12 to 18 months and the development of a strategy and process for reaching a final decision after the interim period ends, set up interim management team to manage the sector at the end of the contract.

Some participants were unhappy that they could not come out with a decisive position and this was bluntly stated by some participants during the formal closing session. One said, “The presentations have failed to make a bold decision as to what should be done.” Another participant stated, “People think that the GWCL is not prepared to take over. We have a plan to continue the work once the Contract ends.” Yet a third participant who spoke earlier said “we the workers of GWCL want AVRL to continue, it has changed our lives, and we are therefore preparing a memorandum to the Minister for the Contract to continue.” It was obvious that even the internal stakeholders of urban water delivery have divergent views as to what must be done.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Bagbin said the forum has revealed the need for further dialogue on what the next steps should be. He observed that stakeholders have different understanding of the Contract, lacked understanding of its provisions and there were still lots of grey areas. The Minister stressed the need for the right decision to be made that will serve the overall interest of the country.

Earlier, at the opening session, Mr. Bagbin had noted that the provision of potatble water was a critical element in government’s policy for the sustainable economic development of the country. He said “government is committed to ensuring that all Ghanaians have access to potatble water.” To that end, the Ministry had initiated various water sector reform measures over the years to improve the efficiency of water delivery and achieve financial stability for the sector.

The reforms included increased private sector participation in the management of the urban water sector, establishment of water oversight and regulatory bodies namely Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in 1997 under Act 538 and the Water Resources Commission (WRC) in 1996 under Act 522, and the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in 1998 under Act 564 to purposely handle rural water. Others were the conversion of the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation into a company namely Ghana Water Company Limited and the establishment of the Water Directorate in 2004 to strengthened the Ministry to coordinate and monitor sector activities, review performance an formulate policies.

Mr. Bagbin explained that the decision to initiate a Management Contract for Urban Water Delivery was reached, following a period of review of several options for efficient management and delivery of urban water. Touching on where the country has reached now in terms of urban water delivery, he stated, “Five years following the coming into force of the Management Contract, one can say with all certainty that we have made some gains, even though a lot still remains to be done.”

Mr. Bagbin said “urban water supply coverage today is much improved as a result of on-going water projects throughout the country.” He noted that there has been significant improvement in the water supply systems of major towns that were severely water stressed. The towns include Koforidua, Tamale, Kumasi, and Kasoa and other major communities. The Minister said there are also on-going projects including the Kpong Water Expansion, Upper East Water Supply, and Volta Water Supply designed to improve urban water supply across the country.

He however pointed out that several challenges have tended to minimise the impact of the gains made in the water sector. Mr. Bagbin mentioned some of the challenges as dwindling water per capita due to population growth and erratic rainfall pattern, high non-revenue water, rapid urbanisation, obsolete equipment, pollution of water bodies and sources, high levels of wastage in the sector, political interferences and long years of corporate carelessness manifested in poor sector governance because of under-qualified, under paid, unmotivated and mostly inefficient staff.

April 12, 2011

Struggling for water in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha slum

Story by Eden Habtamu
Photos by Fredrick Mugira

South Africa, Lina (not the exact name), 27, a domestic worker, lives in Khayelitsha, South Africa. She is a cleaner and baby sitter and earns little money not enough to feed her two younger sisters. She came from a nearby rural area looking for a better life and has not imagined her life would be so much lower than what she thought.

“We have to go far to fetch water and don’t have a toilet in our home. It’s too small to live, but I have to support my family,” She explains when asked if their living condition has the very basic provisions.

Some of the Houses in Cape Town's Khayelitsha settlement

The complaint proved right when a rally of Western Cape has been demonstrated in Western Cape VE informal settlement on March 21 condemned the “capitalist democracy”, ANC and others blamed for the bad conditions of life in the slum.

“We used to live better in some way in our rural villages,’’ Lina says. It was not crowded at least. We abandoned our village and now can’t go back. When things are impossible here, I regret coming to Cape Town.’’

The aim of the rally was to launch a campaign for the 2011 local government elections, which was: “No! No Land! No House! No Water! No Electricity! No Jobs! No freedom! No Vote!

Khayelitsha consists of 91 percent Black, 8.5 percent Colored and under one percent White with more than 50 percent young population. It is made up of old and new informal/formal areas. Khayelitsha’s distinguished informal settlements comprise QQ Section, TR Section, RR Section and Enkanini which have gained prominence due to their conflicts with government.

Since ANC came to power in 1994, it said the life of people in Khayelitsha has improved significantly, but its residents still suffer from lack of decent living environment. Most of its population still lives in a shack with no or inadequate access to water sanitation and hygiene.

Fezeka Nyingindwe, 14, is a 9th grade student and her friends told Eden Habtamu, one of our founding members that they enjoyed the edutainment program and learned the importance of preserving water.

However when asked if they had adequate access to water, Nyingindwe said: We have pipe water 2 to 3 days a week and my mother keeps water in containers when it is available so that we can use it when the pipes run dry.

Such water shortage scenario is common in developing countries and Khayelitsha provides the best examples of it. Khayelitsha, is a slum in Cape Town; a developed second biggest city in the naturally endowed republic. The growing settlement is 47km2 and home to 1.5 million people. Like many in South Africa say, “Apartheid is gone, but its legacy and shack remain.”

Cape Town was not segregated like the rest of South Africa until the 1950’s. It opposed to implement the Group Areas Act passed in 1950 and residential areas in the city were left un-segregated until the first Group Areas were introduced in the city in 1957.

Then Cape Town became the most condensed town in South Africa as hundreds of thousands came to look for jobs. They settled in the outskirts of Cape Town which gave birth to informal settlements that became today’s Khayelitsha.

Incentive and infrastructure development may help to minimize the people who migrate to urban cities with hopes and anticipation. It will save people to build on their skills and capital thus stops deterioration of life. It could also lighten the stress on the environment.

The rapidly increasing rural population and economically poor and over populated urban cites contribute their share for the development of slums in most of sub-Saharan cites. This is the drive behind the World Water Day 2011 theme “Water for cities: how to respond to the urban challenge.

Marking the WWD 2011 in Cape Town on March 21-22, 2011, UN Water in collaboration of African Ministers council of water (AMCOW), Cape Town Ministry of Water Environment and other concerned organizations organized an edutainment program for school children at the nearby slum Khayelitsha at Recreational Center of in Cape Town.

The children enjoyed the edutainment programs, made colourful by drums and different songs with messages on how to utilize, save and preserve water so that the coming generation will not be faced with loss of water.

The writer interviewing some of the students that attended the function at Khayelitsha Recreational Center in Cape Town

The South African Deputy Minister of Water and Environment, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, claimed that the children who come from the nearby “slums” do have adequate access to water and sanitation at a press conference at the event, though the children and other resident didn’t agree.

Today over 800 million people worldwide live in slums while 71 percent of urban Africans are slum residents with little or no infrastructure (proper housing, water, sanitation, electric power and communication is available.)

April 6, 2011


Story by Joyce Chimbi
Nairobi, Kenya

Photo by Fredrick Mugira
KENYA, The director of the Meteorological Department Dr Joseph Mukabana recently released an eagerly awaited weather report predicting the patterns of the expected long rains.

Although based on the report the rains are expected to properly fall in April, even then, not much rain has been forecasted. This comes after the short rains fell below the expected level and is bound to fuel the already existing water crisis particularly in Nairobi.

As a series of short and long rains continue to fuel water crisis in Nairobi and with taps running dry residents have shifted to borehole water for solutions but this too is proving rather inadequate.

Pupils at a School in Isingiro district of Uganda close to Uganda- Tanzanian boarder drinking water from a water tap

The biggest problems that Nairobi city continues to face are water supply, sanitation and transport. This became even clearer during the recently released results of the census which revealed that Kenyans are growing by one million people per year.

Further, the rural urban migration has continued to increase rapidly with Nairobi being home to an estimated 3 million Kenyans making it the largest city in East Africa.

“Although the name Nairobi is derived from a Maasai word enkare nyirobi which loosely translates into ‘a place with cool waters’ and for many years has been popularly referred to by Kenyans as ‘the Green City in the sun’ these phrases however are slowly becoming rather ironical,” explains Cecelia Tande, an environmentalist.

With the harsh climatic conditions as well as a growing population that has seen many storey buildings come up across the city to cater for the growing population, the city continues to face severe water problems.

As a matter of fact, there is an annual housing shortfall of over 120,000 units in Nairobi each year. This has continued to create a surge in the demand for water.

“City Council has come up with ways of ensuring that the water reaches many people by opening their pipes in the wee hours of the night when people are too sleepy to exploit the opportunity and will only fetch what they need to meet the basics needs,” explains Nancy Turi, a resident in Eastlands Nairobi.

According to a report by Stella Kabura who runs a web based information resource on various issues in Kenya, “it is getting harder to draw water from the city’s boreholes report water-selling companies, with water volumes down now by more than a quarter on their levels of six months ago.”

Plans to sink more boreholes by various interested parties in the water business which has proved quite lucrative seem futile because the already existing boreholes are recording significantly low volumes of water.

Further, Stella Kabura draws attention to the fact that not only has the country suffered a series of failed rainy seasons but the city council has also failed to effectively collect water revenues that can further be used to expand the available water infrastructure.

“The deterioration in piped water supplies triggered by the long-term financial crisis of the municipal water system – unable to collect bills on illegal water tapping, and unable to maintain its infrastructure without revenue,” Stella Kabura expounds.

With Nairobi city council unable to manage the water crisis, this has seen residents turn to city boreholes to meet their water supply needs consequently leading to a sharp drop in the water table around the city.

Further, Stella Kabura notes that, “Karengacha Borehole Company, which has been supplying city residents with water since 2002 from two boreholes in the Nairobi basin reports that where their electric pumps used to draw 11 cubic meters of water an hour, they now can only draw 8 cubic meters an hour, and must run the pumps for fewer hours to maintain supplies.”

Although the meteorological department predicts that rain will soon start in many parts of the country, they also note that it will be unevenly distributed with dry spells in between rainy days.
Further, even in the event that the rains do fall, the country still lacks sufficient capacity to harvest the rains.

“It is a common sight to see people moving around looking for water vendors even during rainy days. In fact, in highly populated places such as Eastlands in Nairobi, water becomes an even rarer commodity on rainy days,” explains Mitch Omondi, a resident of Eastlands.

According to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the country urgently needs to increase its storage capacity by a 30-fold in order to sufficiently meet current demand.

“The lack of rains means that electricity will cost more and ultimately water will also cost more because more than 60 percent of the country runs on hydroelectric power and the percentage is much higher in Nairobi,” Cecilia Tande expounds.

The rising costs are however not only expected to affect the energy sector but the cost of food will also go high consequently hurting an economy that is struggling to get back on its feet.

“With a growing trend and in failed rains, the government needs to foster partnerships with the private sector in order to effectively and efficiently harvest the little rain that is expected to fall soon,” Cecilia Tande concludes.

April 6, 2011


By Joseph Ngome
Kisumu, Kenya.

KENYA, The disclosure that only four countries in Africa continent have managed to provide better sanitation to their citizens leaves a lot to be desired by all concerns. It’s a great concern because most of the countries on the continent have not reached the goal even to provide adequate quality water to their population.

Now, where do Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and South Africa that have been accredited to have achieved this feat leave other African states? This was a concern to the participants at the 2011 World Water Day celebrated in Cape Town, South Africa. And it remains a concern that needs some immediate solutions. Sanitation has been given a second deck in most countries notwithstanding the state of water provision in those countries. Some cities and towns have done very little to provide sanitation facilities in most of their institutions, Kenya is included.

Poor sanitation remains a big problem in most slums in urban centers in Africa

Kisumu city in Kenya, for instance, continue to grapple with provision of adequate water to meet the demand of 500,000 residents of the city and thus make sanitation provision a tall order to achieve.

The Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO), Managing Director, Eng. David Onyango says the city has since embraced the provision of sanitation to town dwellers although sewerage facilities have not received the deserving attention.

French Development Agencies (AFD) gave Kisumu City Council USD 25 million to rehabilitate the water and sewerage systems in the city by the year 2008, he said. The company received USD 562,500 for Phase I completed by 2008 that was to increase water supply and improve sewerage disposal in the city.

The balance of USD 18 million was to be increased by another USD 12.5 million bringing to total USD 37.5 million funds by AFD to Kisumu Municipal Council to complete the remaining phases that includes new pumps and sewerage plant improvement, Eng. Onyango says.
But to-date sanitation still remains a problem in Kisumu city as in other cities across the African continent.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) around 1.1 billion people globally do not have access to improved water supply sources whereas 2.4 billion people do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility.

About 2 million people die every year due to diarrhoeal diseases; most of them are children less than 5 years of age. The most affected are the populations in developing countries, living in extreme conditions of poverty, normally peri-urban dwellers or rural inhabitants.

Among the main problems which are responsible for this situation are: lack of priority given to the sector, lack of financial resources, lack of sustainability of water supply and sanitation services, poor hygiene behaviours, and inadequate sanitation in public places including hospitals, health centres and schools. As it was found out in Kenya recently, most schools do not have pit latrines let alone toilets. Providing access to sufficient quantities of safe water, the provision of facilities for a sanitary disposal of excreta, and introducing sound hygiene behaviours are of capital importance to reduce the burden of disease caused by these risk factors, according to World health Organization (WHO).

African Development Bank says that these four countries have achieved some Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but most countries in the South of Sahara have no adequate water and sanitation.

But one fundamental question that comes to people’s mind is: can sanitation be made a human right as it has been done with water as a human right?” UN Habitat in conjunction with some financial institutions including The World Bank plans to provide those facilities in rural and urban and already a sum of USD 21 million shillings have been allocated to ADB to work with.

The Mayor of Cape Town city in South Africa says that a total of 24 million people visit the city annually and the city has the capacity to provide the basin necessities that make the residents of the city live with dignity!

During the 2011 World Water Day event in Cape Town, the Chairperson of African Ministers of Council of Water (AMCOW) said there is no life without water and that water is human right! Perhaps if that motto can be accommodated by all other states and then access to water can be a thing of the past.

However, the provision of water to the Informal sector in Cape Town city in South Africa looks bright according to the Chief Director of Water West Cape Province Mr. Rashid Khan. He said provision of water in South Africa is in three tiers where National Government, Local Government and Municipalities are involved.

April 2, 2011

Water remain elusive in Africa

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.

April 1, 2011

AMCOW vows To Make Water Accessible To All Africans

By Patrick Baidoo, Ghana

Cape Town – South Africa 

CourtesyUnited Nations

The African Ministers’  Council on Water [AMCOW] says it would continue with the drive to make potable water and proper sanitation facilities accessible and available to all Africans by 2015.

In that vein the body has noted it would initiate positive frameworks which will guide the various governments and institutions on the continent with the mandate of providing  a safer environment and quality water to enable them secure the needed funds to carry out that objective.  

Speaking in an interview with our member, Patrick Baidoo of Ghana, at the United Nations World Water Day Event in Cape Town on 22nd  March 2011, the Executive Secretary of AMCOW, Bai Mass Taal noted that the provision and accessibility to potable water by Africans was vital to achieving the United Nations  Millennium Development  Goals [MDGs] by the 2015 target.

The MDG which underscores Mr. Taal’s assertions is goal 7, which upholds governments of nations to halve their population which do not have access to potable water and a safer environment by 2015.

He indicated, “Formed in 2002 in Abuja Nigeria, the Objective of AMCOW is primarily to promote cooperation, security, social and economic development and poverty eradication among member states through the management of water resources and provision of water supply services hence that mandate will be adhered to.”

He stressed that the Mission of AMCOW was also to provide political leadership, policy direction and advocacy in the provision, use and management of water resources for sustainable social and economic development and maintenance of African ecosystems.

Children fetching water from a borehole

The Executive Secretary stated that although the ministerial body does not directly provide water and sanitation facilities at the country level, it has through various meetings and sessions at global and regional level events on water initiated recommendations that have guided the policy direction of most African countries in their effort to provide the right water infrastructure.

“AMCOW initiatives has opened the way for funds and technology suitable to develop the water sector and provide potable water and sanitation facilities at all communities in Africa. It is by no fluke that six African countries are on track to achieve the MDGs by 2015,” he noted.

The countries are Angola, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco but nonetheless, Mr. Taal believes that a lot more could be achieved by the continents governments with the right approach.

He advised institutions to also rehabilitate and maintain water infrastructures on the continent well in order to attract more funds for water service delivery.

As part of efforts to participate in the upcoming World Water Forum in Marseille, France in March – 2012, he indicated that regional consultations would be held to solicit views which would be factored into a regional paper for deliberations at that event.

“This does not mean that provisions in recommendations in previous regional papers will be discarded. Governments will be upheld to deliver on them before focusing on current positions

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