Where is the Kenyan Government now?
It is at the crack of dawn, when I find myself lying in my four by six feet comfortable bed wide awake. I walk across the semi- dark room and draw the curtains. It is a beautiful day as the sun manifests itself majestically over the horizon. Butterflies flutter freely through the tall trees, frogs creak gently in the background as birds chirp melodiously. The aroma of nature revitalizes my spirit, as I prepare for the day ahead.
I devote some time in remembrance of the Almighty, before heading for men’s room. I paste my toothbrush as I unconvincingly try to impersonate famous celebrities in the mirror. I turn the tap on, and boom! Realization strikes me with a heavy blow- there is no water. My subconscious takes a swipe at me; Welcome to Nairobi.
Sadly, this is not the first time the business hub of East Africa is experiencing water problems. It has been going on for the last eight years; getting progressively severe each year. A plethora of excuses have been attributed to this- lack of rain, “temporary” technical difficulties, illegal interruption of water supply and pipe bursts among others.
We have all experienced such shortages, and are not content with the issue. However, as we indulge into the ping pong blame game between the government and its citizens, we rarely get anywhere. The elite have us believing it is Mother Nature as well as the common mwananchi always to blame. We fall for it almost every time.
Well, not this time. Let me enlighten you, my fellow wananchi. The government too has a role in the shortage. Let them not think they can get away with their negligence by heightening that of their subordinates.
According to the Water Act (2002), water service providers and boards under the ministry of Water and Irrigation must ensure consumers have access to efficient, adequate, affordable and clean water. The Act also created WASREB (Water Services Regulatory Board), a non-commercial state corporation responsible for ensuring that water companies adhere to set rules and standards. The state corporation also determines water tariffs and issues licenses to the water boards.
This act has been violated time and again, with no consequences being taken whatsoever. Dear Kenyans, are these the kind of leaders we elected? The ones who state one thing and do the other?
Despite rapid growth due to rural-urban migration in the last decade, Nairobi has not invested in new water production facilities since Ndakaini dam was commissioned in the mid 1990s. The city is supported by two other dams; Sasumua and Ondiri, both of which were built by British colonialists before independence in 1963. A World Bank report estimated that by 2005, there were well over 2250 boreholes drilled by organizations and individuals to help alleviate the water travesty.
Fellow citizens, this clearly outlines the laxity on the government’s side in addressing water shortages. There seems to be no significant injection of resources on a large scale aimed at improving the water conditions. What happened to the millions of shillings that went unaccounted for in the recent budget? It could have been put to good use.
Burst water pipes in some estates of Nairobi are now a very common phenomenon. Residents tend to lose out on water for days, as it flows out of pipes wastefully. The Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company is proving too slow to offer solutions, and any repairs to burst pipes are charged to local residents who cannot afford these high costs.
Hmmm… Corruption at its best? Stealing from the people what they must provide themselves. As a company, you offer services to your clients at a fee. Maintenance is a cost incurred by the company- unless intentionally damaged by their clients. Where is the justice?
I reside in Kasarani division, on the outskirts of Nairobi. We experience water outages too often. One of the main reasons for this is attributed to the construction of Thika road. Either a water pipe was struck, or the constructors are using a little too much water on the road. I am quite sure damaging our infrastructure and exploiting our meager resources wasn’t part of the contract signed between our government and the Chinese. I have not had water for three days now.
Speaking to Ahmed Kassim, a student of USIU (United States International University), he explains how the shortage caught him unawares, as he expressed an uncomfortable smile. “I had an exam on Wednesday morning. When I went to brush my teeth, there was no water. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Especially considering the amount of rainfall in the past two weeks,” he said. Upon asking how he had been coping thus far, he replied sheepishly “I shower at the gym on campus, I eat out because there is no water to wash the dishes. I bought a five litre bottle of mineral water, so I can drink and brush my teeth!”
Dear countrymen, it is easy to engage in the blame game. We have been doing so for decades now- and perfected the art. What is far more productive though, is recognizing the faults from both sides of the coin and working towards a common goal. For years, the press has religiously covered the notoriety from the common citizens concerning water outages. I have highlighted but a few things rarely mentioned in the media.
We must now come together as a nation to collectively find solutions to such problems through fora and discussions. Recycling water, inflicting harsher penalties on water siphoning, improving and maintenance of water systems as well as educating the masses on water sustainability are but a few suggestions that spring to mind. Solutions must be thought of collectively, articulated carefully and implemented effectively if we are to get rid of this decay.
As the media, it is our duty to play the watchdog role of ensuring that these solutions are not just brushed off the table, but are enacted upon.