By BONIFACE MULU
The World Water Day is an annual UN observance day that advocates for the sustainable management and development of freshwater resource.
The Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary James Macharia further said that the day draws public attention to the critical water issues and informs on the activities the government and stakeholders are undertaking in the water sector.
The minister made the remarks in a speech read for him by the ministry’s Administration Secretary Douglas Mutai during this year’s (30th) World Water Day celebrations held at the Maliku Primary School in Katulani District, Kitui County on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 where the learning institution was the Kenya’s national venue. Mutai was representing the CS as the chief guest at the event.
The event was attended by hundreds of the local residents. And thousands of trees were planted at the learning institution during the function. The World Water Day is globally marked on March 22 every year.
Groundwater, make the invisible visible was the theme of this year’s event.
The event had been organised by the Tanathi Water Works Development Agency in partnership with the UN Water, Kitui County government, Kenya Water Institute, Water Resources Authority, Kenya Wildlife Services, National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority, Lake Victoria North Water Works Development Agency, Central Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency, Water Fund, Water Services Regulatory Board.
Tana Water Works Development Agency, Norther Water Works Development Agency, Athi Water Works Development Agency, Regional Centre on Groundwater Resources Education, Training and Research, Trans Africa Water, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Coast Water Works Development Agency.
Kitui Water and Sanitation Company, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Water Towers Agency and Equity Bank. Macharia said the water resources management is critical in sustainable water and sanitation service delivery.
“As you are aware, the water as a national resource cannot be considered as other national resources like oil, gold, copper, iron and so on where as the water does not have high profit margins it is nevertheless of high socio-economic value.
Therefore, as the country endevours to achieve the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities we need to recognize that the water resources in Kenya are not evenly distributed,” Macharia said.
The minister said the inter-basin transfers of water is therefore very important and it will be achieved while addressing conflicts that arise from the competing users through effective public participation and prudent sharing of the water resources to equally benefit all.
The minister said that according to the UN global scale on the water security which stipulates the minimum of 1000 cubic meters per person per year.
the current level of access in Kenya is estimated at a national average of 64 per cent for water, 26 per cent for sanitation in the urban areas with the non-revenue water at 41 per cent and the annual water per capita is less than 500 cubic meters making the country severely water stressed.
“To address this situation, the government through this ministry is undertaking major water, sanitation and irrigation projects including the policy, governance and legal intervention to increase the water storage, improve sanitation and food security in the country,” he added.
Macharia said that since 1999 the government has implemented reforms in the water sector to address the gaps which have hindered the effective delivery of water and sanitation services in the entire country.
And he further said the ministry has developed and launched the water and irrigation policies. “The key policy direction includes progressive realisation of the universal access to water, management, conservation and protection of the water resources, rehabilitation of the riparian and catchment areas in order to eliminate the pollution of the water bodies,” the minister added.
Macharia said that in cognizant of the impact posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the water and sanitation services provision across the country, the government invested some 1.62 billion shillings to drill and equipped 193 boreholes and construct some 193 elevated steel water tanks to supply some 33 million water litres per day to enable 1,600,000 residents access free water in the formal settlements in Nairobi.
“In addition, the government will invest a further 5.0 billion shillings through the World Bank to extend a conditional liquidity support grant to further assist the water utilities meet their operational and minor capital expenditure to enable them recover from the pandemic’s impact,” Macharia said.
The minister said the effects of the climate change especially the severe droughts and floods cycles and encroaching desertification emergence are increasingly impacting and critically reducing the country’s renewable freshwater resources. On behalf of the minister, Mutai officially commissioned the 15 million shillings Kavisuni-Maliku borehole water project.
The about 11 cubic meters water project that has been constructed by the Tanathi Water Works Development Agency is serving some 6,500 people. Its construction work completed in June 2021. The Kitui County Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu’s speech was read for her by her deputy, Dr. Gideon Wathe Nzau.
The governor said the World Water Day brings all the stakeholders together and reminds people the water’s significance globally and how important it is in addressing the world’s emerging challenges facing the water sources in the 21st century.
“The groundwater serves a very important source of water for the arid areas like Kitui,” Ngilu said. However, it has its challenges such as high the salinity levels and low the water levels caused by the climate change and lack of the catchment conservation, she further said.
The Kitui County Governor said that the catchment protection and the water harvesting structures construction like the earth dams and sand dams are therefore critical measures that will make sure the groundwater aquifers are kept recharged.
Lack of these would mean the groundwater potential will continue getting depleted with aquifer levels going as below as 300 metres, she said. The governor said that it should be understood that the water is at the core of the sustainable development and is critical to socio- economic development, healthy ecosystem and human survival.
“It should be noted that it is vital for reducing the global burden of diseases and improving the health preservation, heart of adaptation to climate change thus serving as the link to the climate system, human society and the environment,” Ngilu said.
“The water is a finite and irreplaceable resource that is fundamental to the human well-being and counts to about 60 per cent jobs market globally,” she said. Ngilu disclosed that her government has over the last four years drilled 45 new boreholes across the county benefitting some 41,500 people and 35,000 heads of livestock and equipping 31 boreholes across the county benefitting 35,500 people and 15,000 heads of livestock.
And it has during the same period constructed/de-silted some 61 earth dams with an estimated holding capacity of 1,804,760 cubic metres of water per year and benefitting 31,500 people and 40,500 heads of livestock, according to her.
And she added that during the period the county government has supplied and installed a total of 1,730 plastic water tanks for rain water harvesting to the county’s needy areas and institutions benefitting more than 25,000 people.
The governor announced that her government continues to support the county’s two major water service providers-the Kitui Water and Sanitation Company Limited and the Kiambere-Mwingi Water and Sanitation Company Limited to enhance affordability and provision of water to over 180,000 people through the subsidy of the electricity bill due to low tariffs.
“In spite of all the efforts by the government and other partners in the development of water resources, our people continue to face water challenges,” Ngilu said.
As a government, we are committed to redoubling our efforts to accelerate our water programmes and projects to ensure the enhanced access to food and water security, improved health care, education and youth development, women empowerment and wealth creation in our county, she added.
“It is therefore now my pleasure and honour as the Kitui County Governor to declare and roll out this year’s World Water Day theme “Groundwater, making the invisible visible’’ for action,” the governor said.
Thank you and God bless you all, she said. And after reading the governor’s speech, Dr. Nzau also addressed the event. And in his speech, the Tanathi Water Works Development Agency Chief Executive Officer, Fredrick T. Mwamati, disclosed that the agency covers four out of the Kenya’s 47 counties namely Kitui, Kajiado, Machakos and Makueni.
The agency’s headquarters are in Kitui Town. “Much of our water is the groundwater for our people,” the CEO said. “We (the agency) are using the solar to manage the water supply to our people. By using the solar, we are mitigating the climate change crisis in this region,” Mwamati said.
The Tanathi Water Works Development Agency is one of the Kenya’s eight water works development agencies. The Kitui County Commissioner, Mbogai M. Rioba, who also addressed the event, thanked the locals for “welcoming our visitors who visited here today.” He said that they the people of Kitui are in a very dire need of water.
“The area faces an acute water shortage because it is dry,” Rioba said.
Kitui, which is the fifth largest county in landmass out of the Kenya’s 47 counties, is among the country’s arid and semi-arid regions that account for some 86 per cent of the country’s total land area. In his speech, the area (Kitui Rural Constituency) Member of Parliament Boni Mwalika thanked the Kenya’s Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Ministry for organising this year’s World Water Day celebrations in Kitui County.
“Kitui is a water-scarce area despite the two permanent rivers-Tana and Athi-passing through the county,” the MP said. He regretted that about 1.1 million people of Kitui County drink some contaminated water. “The figure accounts for some 85 per cent.
It is only some 15 per cent of the locals who drink some safe water, according to the Kenya’s 2019 national census. So that means many people in the area are sick as a result of drinking some contaminated water,” the politician regretted.
Mwalika highly thanked the Kenya’s government for having drilled some six multi-million shillings water boreholes in his constituency. “I would also like to thank the Kenya’s government for the ongoing construction work of the multi-billion shillings Thwake Dam in the Ukambani region (Kitui, Machakos and Makueni Counties),” the Kitui Rural Constituency MP added. “The Thwake Dam is a multi-purpose dam. It is almost 70 per cent complete. It is the largest dam in the country.
And I think it will be complete in the next two weeks,” Mwalika said. The Kitui County Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Minister Emmanuel Kisangau also addressed the occasion among others.