Archive for May, 2012

May 18, 2012

Malawi: Aquatic Weeds and Silt Lead to Power Deficiency

George Mhango
May 18, 2012

Two things are clear in Malawi, especially at night: blackouts and the sound of generators in various workplaces. Power interruptions continue to affect both private and public sectors including people. These blackouts are also attributed to effects of weeds and silt.

Latest findings by Malawi Business Climate Survey (MBCS) cuts in power transmission have contributed to losses beyond the minimum acceptable level of seven percent.

The growth of water weeds has a significant impact on rivers and hydropower generation in many countries in Africa

The Millennium Challenge Account-Malawi (MCA-M) estimates that the country is losing 215.6 million dollars a year due to the power outages.

With transmission and distribution losses pegged at about 20 percent, according to Escom, the Consumers Association of Malawi says poor Malawians bear the cost of losses through hiked tariffs.

Tedzani Hydro Power Station is one of the affected apart from Nkula and Kapichira.

Visits to Tedzani which generates close to 90 megawatts of power proved that in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the onset of floating aquatic weeds on the river so much so that electricity generation has been greatly affected especially during the rainy seasons.

However, the intake was previously provided with a course-screen that runs across the pond to catch and divert any oncoming trash and weeds. The equipment suffered damage at its base foundations and some screens got washed away during the 2001 similar operation.

For Escom power stations operated without any major environmental problems until 1990s when there was an increase of floating aquatic weeds and debris in addition to silt deposition at the intake ponds.

Knowing that they already use equipment to deal with weeds and silt, Escom officials think it is high time they engaged communities in sensitization meetings at Tedzani so they stop cultivating along the river banks.

Public relations manager, Kitty Chingota confirmed this to media practitioners during a recent tour to the site that communities are crucial since farming along the river has side effects on their head-ponds.

“Soils that are being eroded are full of soil nutrients, in addition to this, almost all farmers use artificial fertilizers which are eroded together with top soils before finding their way into the river,” she says.

The awareness is expected to involve the agricultural officials and the forestry department.

Shire River Bridge, Mangochi Malawi

In a paper presented during the International Conference on Hydro Power in Malawi held in Sri Lanka three years ago, Escom officials alluded that when these soils and their nutrients are deposited into the river they provide necessary nutrients to the aquatic plants and they then grow and multiply.

The paper states that the weeds among others comprise of water hyacinth (eichhornia crassipes) known as Namasupuni, Red water fern (Salvinia molesta), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and elephant grass

Engineers say that as aquatic weeds float, the river currents then cuts them off from the main firm grounds of the river banks and they are carried away downstream which affects power generation.

She states that Escom’s priority is to ensure that Malawians have power hence the decision to work on the machines. “Silt and aquatic weeds are a major threat to power generation because most of the equipment cannot pump water as a result of the two problems,” says Chingota.

Rex Muhome, head of Tedzani Hydro Power Station shares his input saying that through flooding, crops are washed away and as such weeds are emptied into the river while forming silt.

During the tour it was observed that the screens are cleaned by trash rakes but at certain instances the trash rakes have been overcome by the inflow of the weeds so much so that the whole power station could be shut down to allow for the weeds to be cleared out at the intake.

It is against this background that during the Easter Holiday, Escom repairs equipment from the head-ponds. “We lose revenue once we halt operations but such repair works on Easter Holidays are crucial to us as Escom. Just this year, we first closed Tedzani on Friday and Sunday and then Nkula later to ensure that most parts still have power,” said Chingota.

Muhome, head of the power station hints that the shutting of production at the site is routine considering that on the Easter Holiday, not many companies are in production.

“In this project of maintaining and removing weeds and silt we always target all Hydro Power Stations but in phase. However, communities have got to be sensitised having observed serious repercussions on our machines,” Muhome says.

He says the civic education for communities not to cultivate along the river banks is likely to start soon. “We are working on modalities for the whole project for it to be a success,” Muhome says.

Such decisions by Escom to involve communities would ensure that power generations projections by the (MCA-M) for 2010, 2015 and 2020 estimated at 408MW, 603MW and 829MW are achieved inclusive of new power plants establishments.

Statistics by the power utility company and economists vindicate that the concealed demand for power in Malawi for about 180 000 clients is about 300MW. However, the available power generation capacity as at now is 266MW not in line with the overgrowing demand of power.

Up to 98 percent of electricity is obtained from power plants located on the Shire River in Chikhwawa South of Malawi, except for Wovwe mini hydro plant in Karonga situated. Escom authorities point out that the country’s hydro potential is estimated at over 1,000MW.

May 18, 2012

Kenya: Death on the River

May 18, 2012
Mary Mwendwa

September 13th 2011, was one of the darkest mornings in Kenyan history. Sinai slum, found in Nairobi’s Industrial area lost over 100 people in a fire tragedy.

Located in the eastern part of Nairobi, Sinai slum has a Nairobi River tributary that passes nearby. Residents here build their sheet house close to the river, when it rains some of the houses on the riparian land get washed away.

Kenya Pipeline Company, responsible for oil supply in the country has a transport corridor for the petroleum products within the Sinai slum. With no proper sanitation services, the river here is full of human waste and chemical waste from the factories. National Environment Management Authority, NEMA, has been conducting a cleaning program of the river but due to increasing population among many slum dwellers the river still faces pollution.

A section of the Sinai- fire tragedy scene on Ngong River

On this jinxed day, people were scooping super petrol from a burst pipeline .With less knowledge about the high flammable condition of the oil, many celebrated it as a blessing of getting money after selling the product.

Men, women and children joined in the scramble for scooping oil.Little did they know things would take a tragic turn even before they could sell the petrol. Josephine Atieno a mother of five lost her teenage son and her husband, who both had gone to scoop the oil. She has never been able to trace their bodies. ‘Fire broke out after a man with a cigarette went to get oil from the pipe’ she sobs.scores of people died and many are still nursing serious wounds they sustained on that material day.

According to Jasper Opati, a resident at the slum for the last 20 years, ‘people here have low income levels, and whenever they see something they can get money from, never think of the danger it poses’. On that day when fire broke, some people jumped into the polluted river to put off fire on their bodies but it dint work. Many burnt to death in the river. The river got double pollution because it had remains of decomposing body parts that were not retrieved during the search exercise.

Sinai slum along Ngong river tributary

River pollution in slums is a major concern, sewers in slums are drained in rivers, all types of waste dumped in them. In Nairobi, some of the slums that are near Nairobi river are, Mathare, Kibera, Majengo ,Kwa Njenga among others. All these contributing to the pollution of a river that originates from Ngong , Dagoretti Forests and Ondiri/Kikuyu wetlands.

Professor Kenneth Mavuti, A Hydrologist and a Senior lecturer at Nairobi University attributes human encroachment on raparian land as one of the major contributing factors to river pollution. Large populations of people occupy slum with no access to water and sanitation.

The fire tragedy at Sinai fueled another tragedy of pollution in the Nairobi River Basin, although life may have gone back to normal, other related disasters loom as people still occupy slums for a survival in the name of a livelihood in the city.

May 18, 2012

Uganda: Bottled Water Policy Coming Soon

Paschal B. Bagonza
May 18, 2012

Users of bottled water products in Uganda will soon be saved from consuming substandard products.

This is because the ministry of trade, industry and cooperatives has started a process of formulating a policy to regulate the bottled water industry according to the minister of trade, industry and cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde.

Kyambadde was speaking during her tour of Rwenzori Bottling Company.

She lamented that Uganda has a booming water industry which is under threat by increasing “underground businesses that manufacture fake and substandard products.”

There are about forty registered water bottling companies in Uganda

There are about forty registered water bottling companies in Uganda, with others operating underground. As of last year, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards had certified twenty seven water bottlers.

Sometimes, suspect substandard packed water is sold in polythene packages and plastic bottles, putting the lives of consumers at risk.

Some of these bottled water products are exported to Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Tanzania and Rwanda. Most clients of water products are found in urban and semi urban areas of Uganda.

The managing director of Rwenzori Bottling Company, Kirowi Suman says the government was losing revenue because there is no regulatory policy in the country to guide the industry.

Suman noted that if the bottled water products industry was regulated, the government would collect taxes of about Shs 2 billion Ugandan shillings which is being avoided by unregistered manufacturers.

Rwenzori Bottling Company spokesperson Sumin Namaganda said much as their company paid 65% of tax revenue collected from all bottled water companies, the government could have collected Shs 11.3 billion from all sector players, if the industry was well regulated.

80% of diseases in developing countries are caused by contaminated water.

May 8, 2012

Kenya: Saved by Borehole 11

Mary Mwendwa
May 8, 2012

Northern Kenya is generally hot and dry. The people of Northern Kenya are mostly pastoralists and living in dry harsh terrains. Our network member Mary Mwendwa has been there. She now takes us on an exploratory journey of the dry and dusty drought-ridden plains of North Eastern Kenya in search of water.

Women and children carrying jerry cans on their backs, donkeys with water on their backs, flocks of cattle, goats and camels are just some of the regular images one sees along the dusty and dry roads of a village town – Elwak, located in the North Eastern province of Kenya, Mandera Central District.

No tarmac road exists here; it’s a rough terrain with dust and bushy thorny plantations which are drought resistant,
A community known for its nomadic lifestyle and pastoralism, the harsh climatic conditions here of scotching heat and no rainfall has left many residents in need of water.

People waiting for water at borehole 11 -elwak

This precious commodity is shared amongst the people and their livestock which is part of them. People here belong to the Garre community who speak both Somali and Borana language and are Muslims by religion.

Drought and famine here are so severe to a level that people and livestock lose life and children get malnourished as the situation worsens.

Last year’s drought was a bad one; they lost lots of livestock, having no place to take their livestock as their neighbor Somalia was in the same situation.

Claudio Siotum, the livestock officer in the District, shortage of water and pasture is the main problem facing people here, it gets worse when there is drought and people start feeding their cows on cotton paper mixed with sugar and some water.
“Rainfall here is never our vocabulary, two years can pass without a single drop of rainfall’’, says Halima Boru, a mother of four aged 32 who has lived here her entire life.

A region close to the porous Somalia border seven kilometers away from Somalia. Life here is never a bed of roses. People walk for so many kilometers to get access to clean water. Amaney Fatuma, a teenage girl here walks for seven kilometers every day to get to a borehole that serves the entire community.

Borehole 11 –As they call it, is just a savior to the people here, the wells they have dug in their villages produce saline water and only borehole 11 has clean and sweet water.’’ Maji Tamu” loosely translated in English ‘’sweet water’’.This borehole was constructed with the help of Kenya Red Cross Society .

May 8, 2012

Uganda: Researchers Use Fruit Seeds to Purify Water

Paschal B. Bagonza
May 8, 2012

Researchers at Makerere University – Uganda’s oldest university are studying how to use fruit seeds to purify water.

Robert Natumanya, from Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (MUCASES) is at the forefront of a research to enhance water purification by embracing green technology of using moringa, jackfruit and java plum (jambula) seeds.

Some of the seeds that are being used in this research

He says Makerere University funded this two year water purification research to the tune of US$ 5, 000.

The research aims at addressing the problem of lack of access to clean and safe drinking water.

According to Natumanya, after the final phase of the findings, they will disseminate the results.

He says there are plans to develop a kit from these findings so that it can be used at household levels, especially in rural areas where it can be cheap and easily available.

“We are trying to package the research findings so that we can make it available to people,” he adds.

Natumanya says “moringa seeds powder can remove 80-90% of dirtiness in water.”

He stresses that jackfruit seeds are better because of their medicinal property.

Natumanya says already Java plum seeds are used traditionally in Sudan to purify water, adding that all seeds have the ability to do so but this depends on protein content they have.

He explains that mature seeds are harvested, dried well to maintain their chemical nature, grounded to powder level and then extractions are made.

Solvents like distilled water and saline (salt solution) are mixed with the powder, filtered and a seed extract is gotten.

Natumanya further says that this green technology is easy because “plant materials are available in our homes.”

According to the College’s website, the technology is to be tested for another year to ensure its safety after which researchers will come up with recommendations on the usage and packaging.

Uganda’s water body, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation covers only 60%, living the 40% of the population without access to piped water.

May 8, 2012

Countries Reform Their Water Laws As Pressures Mounts On Water Resources

UN-Water and UNEP
May 7, 2012

Over 80 percent of countries have reformed their water laws in the past twenty years as a response to growing pressures on water resources from expanding populations, urbanization and climate change.

In many cases, such water reforms have produced significant impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access, human health and water efficiency in agriculture.

Water reforms have produced significant impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access

At the same time, global progress has been slower where irrigation, rainwater harvesting and investment in freshwater ecosystem services are concerned.

These are among the findings of a United Nations survey of over 130 national governments on efforts to improve the sustainable management of water resources.

The survey focuses on progress towards the implementation of internationally-agreed approaches to the management and use of water, known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Backed by UN Member States at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as part of an overall action plan on sustainable development (known as Agenda 21), IWRM is a way forward for efficient, equitable and sustainable development and management of the world’s limited water resources.

Amid increasing and conflicting demands on the world’s water supply, IWRM integrates domestic, agricultural, industrial and environmental needs into water planning, rather than considering each demand in isolation.

The latest survey is intended to inform decision-making at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012. Twenty years after the Earth Summit, world governments will once again convene in Rio de Janeiro to take decisions on how to ensure sustainable development for the 21st century.

The survey, which was co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on behalf of UN-Water (the UN inter-agency co-ordination mechanism for freshwater issues), asked governments for their feedback on governance, infrastructure, financing, and other areas relating to water management, to gauge how successful countries have been in moving towards IWRM.

Overall, 90 percent of countries surveyed reported a range of positive impacts from integrated approaches to water management, following national reforms.

Other key findings include:
• Water-related risks and the competition for water resources are perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years;
• Domestic water supply is ranked by most countries as the highest priority for water resources management;
• The majority of countries reported an increasing trend in financing for water resources development, although obstacles to implementing reforms remain;
• Progress on water efficiency is lagging behind other water management reforms, with less than 50 percent of national reforms addressing water efficiency.

Competition for water resources is perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years

“The sustainable management and use of water – due to its vital role in food security, energy or supporting valuable ecosystem services – underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“As well as highlighting challenges, this new survey also shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for communities and the environment. At Rio+20, governments will have the opportunity to build on these innovations and chart the way forward for sustainable development, where the water needs of a global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050, can be met in an equitable way,” added Mr. Steiner.

The UN survey shows the major environmental changes that have taken place between 1992, when IWRM was firstly widely backed by governments, and today – and how water resources are managed in the face of such challenges.

The world population, for example, increased from 5.3 billion in 1992 to just over 7 billion today, with impacts being felt most strongly in developing countries. This has been accompanied by increased rural-to-urban migration and high refugee movements due to climatic and socio-political disasters.

Survey Recommendations
The survey includes a number of suggested targets and recommendations, which are designed to inform decision-makers at Rio+20. These are based on an assessment of the findings from the survey and include:
• By 2015, each country should develop specific targets and timeframes for preparing and implementing a programme of action and financing strategy for IWRM.
• By 2015, a global reporting mechanism on national water resources management should be established. This is to ensure a more rigorous reporting system on progress with IWRM, and improve the availability of information.
• More effort is needed to increase levels of financing and to improve the institutional framework for water resources management – especially focusing on low HDI countries.

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