Illegal logging, charcoal burning ruin Mt Kenya water tower

Illegal logging and charcoal burning in parts of Mt Kenya Forest are threatening the water tower.

Livestock grazing and human settlements in the forest have also led to drying up of Thegu and Sagana rivers.

Some residents are abusing the plantation establishment and livelihood improvement scheme, which was introduced by the Kenya Forest Service. They are carrying out unregulated farming in the forest, which is also ruining the water tower.

Under the system, beneficiaries are supposed to plant indigenous trees and take care of them for three years but this is not happening. The most affected part is the western block of Kabaru Forest, which has about 3,000 farmers.

“Mbogo-ini (within Kabaru Forest) used to abound with trees. It was an elephant corridor, but people have now encroached it. They have cut down many indigenous trees to pave the way for farming, which is not good for the Mt Kenya ecosystem,” Mt Kenya Forest Association Chairman Charles Maimba said Wednesday.

“The people who are destroying the water tower are the locals in collaboration with forest officers,” said Mr Maimba.

He said several members of a community forest association were allocated a quarter of an acre each in Mbogo-ini after paying Sh500.
The practice is having adverse effects even on communities living far from the Mt Kenya region.

River Ewaso Nyiro, which drains from the ecosystem and waters pastures, now runs dry for around 100 days a year.

Nyeri County Ecosystem Conservator Muchiri Mathenji said in lower Kabaru, among other areas, some people have been spotted at night attempting to engage in charcoal burning.

“A number of these people have been arrested. We urge residents to be on the lookout, especially when they are collecting firewood,” said Mr Mathenji.



Technology Transfer to Boost Sustainability of Water Supply and Sewerage Services

As part of the African Development Bank’s efforts to increase the transfer of technologies and skills to the African continent, Malinne Blomberg, Chief Financial Analyst in AfDB’s Water and Sanitation Department, joined the wide range of stakeholders including technology providers, venture capitalists, private equity firms, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors at the World Water Tech Investment Summit in London from March 9-11, 2015.

The Bank’s participation focused on promoting opportunities in the African market and tangible actions to accelerate the uptake of advanced technologies in water and sanitation for more sustainable services. Africa’s water and sewerage utilities are not coping with the ever-increasing demand and the adoption of appropriate technologies is an opportunity to reverse this situation. While there are examples of advanced technologies, such as desalination plants in Morocco and waste-to-energy programmes in Uganda, it is safe to say that the African utilities do not take advantage of the technologies that exist on the market.

AfDB stressed the need for technologies and solutions that respond to the needs of the African utilities. The greatest immediate needs are in the areas of water loss reduction and energy efficiency. Opportunities also include more effective treatment technologies, allowing for re-use of wastewater and sewerage by-products.

The Summit’s private sector participants were keen to scale up in Africa; however, the lack of project opportunities is a bottleneck, and project designs still primarily rely on traditional technologies that have not changed much over the past decade. Scaling up innovative technologies is perceived as risky by the public entities that are almost exclusively responsible for WSS investments on the continent.

AfDB’s Blomberg noted that one of the keys to accelerate the update of innovative technologies is to shift some of this perceived risk from the public to the private sector. In its continuous efforts to grow its US $3-billion water supply and sanitation portfolio, the Bank is creating space for the private sector to assume some of the responsibilities for water and sanitation services, which includes build/operate/transfer (BOT), design/build/operate (DBO) and performance-based contracts. Stakeholders at the Summit confirmed that AfDB’s role in identifying and preparing such projects is instrumental, and that dedicated facilitation efforts are needed to bridge public and private partners to generate solutions in this area that has long been holding the sector back.

AfDB’s Water and Sanitation Department advocates for a two-pronged approach: Firstly generating greater awareness of existing technologies and their benefits across the sector. In this regard, the Summit allowed the AfDB and key participants to conceptualize a platform for bringing and assessing appropriate and best practice technologies to the African utilities. Secondly, AfDB will identify and create specific project opportunities for integrating such technologies at scale its project design, thereby generating an evidence base and demand for more.

Blomberg, for her part, stressed that this is a continuous process that the Bank is fully committed to and where it is actively establishing collaborations with a broad network of partners.

World Water Day 2015 – “Water and Sustainable Development”

In 1993, the United Nations declared March 22 “World Water Day”. For 22 years, the event has been marked globally each March 22 under a different theme. The theme for 2015 is “Water and Sustainable Development” and reflects the important role water plays in the future of the planet.

This year’s World Water Day comes at a time when the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are being assessed and the international community defines new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the years 2016 to 2030. These SDGs will guide global efforts to protect and develop water resources as well as to offer water and sanitation services to everybody within the next 15 years.

To mark the occasion, the African Development Bank is hosting an event on Friday, March 20 in its Abidjan headquarters. The event will include a panel discussion on how the African Development Bank, decision-makers, development partners, and water and sanitation stakeholders perceive the progress that was achieved under the MDGs and what can be expected of the SDGs. The event will also include the screening of a film on how a Bank-supported water and sanitation project has transformed the lives of rural people in Rwanda.

The African Development Bank is the premier regional partner in achieving water security for inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa. Between 2000 and 2014, the AfDB invested US $4.7 billion to increase access to clean water and sanitation for the people of Africa. Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right and the AfDB is working hard to ensure access for all.

World Water Day 2015: the importance of clean water for those with HIV

Imagine living with HIV and all the health issues and vulnerability it entails.

Now imagine that reality without having access to safe drinking water, a basic and hygienic toilet, and a way to keep yourself and your surroundings clean.

Unfortunately this is the reality for many in southern Africa, where an estimated 12.7 million people are living with HIV. Almost two thirds of the southern African population – 174 million people – do not have access to a basic toilet, and more than 100 million do not have safe water.

For Regis Sicheuunga, 48, in Hambale, Zambia, a diagnosis of HIV was complicated by the great difficulty of finding clean water close to home.

“Before we had the hand-pump, I was given containers and chlorine by the hospital to keep boiled water because it is so important. I got the water from the well, it was a long way… I’d get up at 3am because if you were late the water would be gone,” she told WaterAid researchers before a new borehole and hand-pump was installed in her community.

In a region with such a high prevalence of HIV and poor water and sanitation coverage, it may seem obvious that the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) should be essential to support people who are HIV positive to live healthy and dignified lives. We carried out a study in partnership with fellow non-governmental organisation SAfAIDS: “An integrated approach to HIV and water, sanitation and hygiene in southern Africa, to find out how well services for HIV and Wash were being integrated in Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia, and to identify ways to improve the situation.

When you consider that taking antibiotic resistant virus (ARV) drugs alone requires 1.5 litres of safe, clean water each day, and staying clean and healthy requires up to 100 litres a day, it only makes sense to integrate these services. A person living with HIV needs clean, safe water for drinking, food preparation, laundry and washing, and for mothers with HIV, for safely formula-feeding babies.
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Many life-threatening opportunistic infections are caused by poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Diarrhoea affects 90% of people living with HIV, and the overwhelming majority of cases of diarrhoea (88%) are linked to a lack of safe water, basic toilets and good hygiene.

Diarrhoea also makes ARV drugs less effective, by reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and medicine.

Our assessment, funded by the Anglo American Group Foundation, found weaknesses in links between Wash and HIV policies and guidelines.

At implementation level the links are ad-hoc, with limited coordination. It means that people responsible for working on HIV do not always consider access to water, good sanitation and good hygiene practice in their work, and people working on water and sanitation do not always understand the particular issues faced by people living with HIV.

The situation in each of the four countries is different, but in all of them there are opportunities for better integration. Programming for HIV/Aids is a priority for all four countries – adding consideration for water, sanitation and good hygiene into this structure would not be difficult.

Alongside SAfAIDS, we are now drafting practical guidelines on how to combine approaches, so that more people with HIV/Aids are able to live longer, more dignified lives with the benefit of clean water, sanitation and good hygiene.

“[The water] has been particularly beneficial for me as now I don’t have diarrhoea, because with the diarrhoea it would reduce my high immunity,” Regis Sicheuunga said.
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“Because the water is now near, I don’t have to walk that far. When I am ill, I can manage, or I can send the young ones.”

Cholera outbreak leaves eight dead

Eight people have died from the current cholera outbreak in various parts of the country.

The Ministry of Health also reported that 166 people have been treated so far.

Most of the cases have been reported in Migori County (113, with four deaths), followed by Homa Bay (45, with two deaths) and Nairobi (eight, with two deaths).

Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri said in a statement that the ministry attributed the outbreak to the current dry spell, which has caused a shortage of safe drinking water.

Some people drink contaminated water. To contain the disease, the ministry has distributed water treatment chemicals.

In addition, isolation units have been set up in counties to ensure safe treatment of patients. “We advise the public to be on high alert and to report any suspected cases of cholera or acute diarrhoea to the nearest health centre.

“They are further advised to drink treated or boiled water. The public should ensure that they observe proper sanitation and personal hygiene, including proper hand washing, before eating food and after visiting the toilet,” says the statement.

The disease Thursday killed a child at Rongo Sub-County Hospital Thursday.

County Health Director Joel Gondi said the child was in a serious condition when he arrived at the hospital.

“Patients should be taken for treatment as soon as they begin showing symptoms of cholera,” said Dr Gondi.

Food sellers in the eight constituencies were going about their business despite a ban by county authorities.

The hawkers protested against the ban and Mrs Nancy Atieno, a mother of four, said selling food was her only source of income.


Sh23bn city water project row rages

Murang’a leaders and officials of Tana Athi Water Service Board are scheduled to meet in the next three weeks to iron out differences over a Sh23 billion water project meant to increase flow to Nairobi.
Murang’a Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki told the Sunday Nation Saturday that the meeting bringing together all the county leaders would be held late this month. “During a special seating at the Assembly, I was instructed to call a forum of all stakeholders — including Athi Water Service Board — on January 21. The Assembly passed a motion to that effect,” said the Speaker.

Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura said there was a need for such a forum to allay fears and safeguard the county’s natural resources. The multibillion water project expected to benefit Nairobi is in limbo after it was suspended by Murang’a County Assembly. Dubbed the Northern Water Collector Tunnel, it aims at supplying Nairobi with an additional 140,000 cubic metres of water.

The standoff between the county and Athi Water Service Board (AWSB) has been caused by fears that tapping water using tunnels from rivers Maragua, Irati and Gikigie might lead to a water crisis in the area. All the water of the three main rivers might be used to water Nairobi, leading to an acute shortage in Murang’a, residents claim.

A flurry of meetings have previously taken place between county leaders and the Athi Water board, which is implementing the Sh23.5 billion project funded by the World Bank, but with no concrete compromise.

The Assembly previously suspended the project, with MCAs calling for fresh talks and binding agreements with AWSB before implementation. During a previous stormy session, MCAs termed the project “secretive” arguing that both the county government and the Assembly lacked adequate information on how it will be executed.
The suspension motion sponsored by Mr Joseph Machiri, who chairs the Water and Environmental Committee, received overwhelming support from MCAs.
The tunnel is to be 11.8km long with a diameter of three meters. It will be dug between 20 meters and 250 meters below the ground surface, subject to the terrain.
Mr Machiri, who is also the Kamacharia ward rep, in his motion argued that the board should implement the project with caution to ensure water levels in rivers were not affected.
By 2035, due to increased population, Nairobi would require 1.2 billion litres of water daily, thus the need for expansion. The city already draws millions of litres of water from Ndaka-ini Dam in Gatanga constituency, Murang’a.
The MCA also noted that irrigation and other water programmes initiated by the county government may be adversely affected by the tunnel, which is to be dug along the Aberdare Forest.
In the new demands, the Assembly sought an elaborate programme for re-afforestation and conservation of the Aberdare water tower currently suffering the effects of massive logging and other human activities.

The project would also lead to closure of three power stations depending on water from rivers flowing from the Aberdares, the leaders argued. The motion also sought for payment of Sh1 for each cubic metre of water supplied to Nairobi from Murang’a.

“If we allow construction of the tunnel, which is expected to be more than 250 metres deep, it could absorb all the waters, leaving the entire Murang’a county without water for domestic use,” said Mr Machiri.

The members added that the depth of the tunnel is questionable as it could tap into all the underground water.

They called for a scientific environmental assessment.

The MCA said  they had obtained documents showing the board had earlier proposed to construct a dam at Ichichi but was unable to do so because it was too expensive. He urged the board to revert to the dam construction, which had a lesser impact on the environment.

Members also urged the halting of the project until all residents got access to piped water, noting that only 36 per cent had access to clean water, with the rest depending on rivers which may dry up due to the tunnel.

Nandi County’s Sh300m water supply plan

Nandi County Government will spend Sh300 million on provision of water across all 30 the wards.

The water projects will be commissioned soon in a move meant to address the problem of perennial water shortage.

Locals will also be able to venture into horticulture and other forms of farming.

Land and Water executive John Chumo said at least 105 projects will be rolled out.

“The government is keen to solve the problem of water shortage in this county. We want to ensure our people have access to piped water,” Dr Chumo said.

“This will see farmers engage in horticulture farming through irrigation. We look forward to the time we will witness our farmers export some of their produce,” he added.

Tenders were awarded last year and Dr Chumo wants the contractors to speed up the work.

“We want to see supply of clean water to families which we know will also help fight water borne diseases.”

The projects are also targeted at schools to save students the time they waste in search of water. “We don’t want to see students waste time they would otherwise be using on studies, looking for water. This must end soon,” Dr Chumo added.

Churches and market centres will also be connected to pipped water.

When he took office, governor Cleophas Lagat promised that no women in the county would still be fetching water from rivers by 2017.

And in his development plan, Mr Lagat said he would give priority to water, health and education.

Dr Chumo who spoke at Temso in Kapchorwa ward asked locals to conserve the environment. “We are asking you to stop farming along river banks so that our natural water sources do not dry up.”

Local MCA Julius Kiptindinyo called on the county government to blacklist contractors who were doing shoddy job. “Those who failed to deliver their work within agreed time should also be blacklisted,” he said.


Water shortage leads to deaths as South Africa struggles to cope with urban growth

Three babies who died from drinking tap water contaminated by sewage have become a tragic symbol of South Africa’s struggle to cope with a flood of people into cities designed under apartheid to cater to the tiny white minority.

The poor, as always in the developing world, bear the brunt of water scarcity and irregular access, with parched communities at times erupting in deadly protests.

The three babies, the youngest aged five months, died last month after E. coli bacteria contaminated the drinking water in Bloemhof, a small town southwest of Johannesburg.

Town authorities blamed the contamination on a spillage of raw sewage into a dam that supplies water, resulting in more than 100 people having to be treated for diarrhoea.

“Everybody recognises that the our infrastructure is old. As a small municipality we are also facing financial difficulties,” town council spokesman Oatile Letebele acknowledged.

“It’s a problem that we are grappling with.”

An investigation by the City Press newspaper this month revealed that 15 babies had died in a small town in North West province after consuming dirty water. E. coli was again identified as the main source of contamination.

While babies die, communities across the country have in recent months taken to the streets over a lack of water, often with deadly consequences.
The Bloemhof deaths came after rioting in an impoverished township northwest of the capital Pretoria.

Taps in Mothutlung had been dry for days, forcing residents to rely on intermittent supplies from water tankers. People became ill, leading to violent demonstrations during which police shot at protesters. Five people were killed in the clashes, and the police role is under investigation.

The incidents took place weeks before the country voted in its fifth democratic elections, highlighting the social challenges gripping Africa’s most developed economy.

Before the end of the white-minority apartheid regime and the rise to power of the African National Congress in 1994, the access of black people to cities was limited and infrastructure favoured the few.

While the government has admitted “widespread problems” in the water supply chain, it says 90 per cent of the population now has access to clean drinking water.

The Department of Water Affairs said “rapid urbanisation” made it difficult to achieve targets for service delivery but that it was “in the process of revamping the old infrastructure at a huge cost.”

The proportion of South Africa’s population of 52 million living in urban areas increased from 52 per cent in 1990 to 62 per cent in 2011, according to a survey by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) last year.

The institute said the major causes of the trend were the freer movement of people since the end of apartheid and the search for jobs, noting that it posed major problems for the provision of services to the new urbanites.


Goma in DRC struggle to find enough drinking water

Goma, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, sits by one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs and has some of Africa’s heaviest annual rainfall, yet it is a thirsty place.

Most of the city’s one million residents, living close to the shores of Lake Kivu, have to struggle every day to fetch water home.

From daybreak, an endless stream of cyclists heads to the lake and back, filling battered containers with as much water as they can carry.

In a makeshift shelter, health worker Fedeline Kabuhu tries to ensure that no container leaves without a dose of chlorine, which she injects with a syringe to make sure the water residents collect is potable.

“The people drink this water. They do everything with it,” the 46-year-old French charity worker said.

A single cyclist can transport up to 120 litres to be sold on to private water stores. At a rate of 10 trips to the lake each day, the carriers can expect to earn up to $10 between dawn and dusk.

But by the end of one morning it started to rain and water collector Lambert Biriko decided to call it a day.

“Today is ruined,” he said, adding that residents would gather run-off rain water instead and “won’t buy anything from us.”

Located on the border with Rwanda, Goma is the capital of DR Congo’s North Kivu province, which has been wracked by bloody unrest for more than 20 years, displacing scores of thousands of people.

In those two decades, the city’s population has exploded, swelled by an influx of refugees from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi as well as local Congolese seeking shelter from marauding armed bands.

At the Sports Circle roundabout in the centre of Goma, an old woman washed herself in a puddle next to a pump where lorries fill up with water before transporting it to other neighbourhoods.

Fiston Mugisho, 20, is unemployed and spends the day washing the few motor-taxis that want to stop. He has to buy water from the cyclists each day or walk to another neighbourhood where houses hooked up to the main grid sell what comes out of their taps.

“But you don’t always find water,” Mr Mugisho said. Even for those properties that do enjoy running water, the supply is frequently cut.

As in many other parts of DR Congo — the world’s least developed country according to the United Nations — the people of Goma have learned to fend for themselves after decades of government neglect.

The lack of basic infrastructure has given rise to the Lucha (Fight for Change) protest movement. A shortage of water, electricity and opportunities for work shows “a problem of governance” and “a lack of seriousness”, according to Micheline Mwendike, a member of the apolitical body.

Alongside other organisations, she said, Lucha gathered 3,500 signatures at the end of May for a petition demanding that provincial governor Julien Paluku commit to connecting Goma to the water supply and publish “a plan to bring water to the entire city.”

Backed by regional segments of the political opposition, Lucha is gaining momentum as it accuses authorities of using the insecurity as an excuse for inaction.

The movement stages regular protests and has harnessed the power of social media, using Facebook and the Twitter hashtag #GomaNeedsWater.

Paluku did not respond to repeated requests for comment from AFP.

Deogratias Kizibisha, the North Kivu director of public water distribution firm Regideso, said that 45 per cent of Goma residents are connected to the central supply. Lucha claims the real rate is closer to 20 per cent.

Jean-Pierre Kambere is a nurse in Birere, Goma’s poorest slum.

“Adding chlorine is not enough” to make water gathered from Lake Kivu safe to drink, he said. “Every week patients come to us with diarrhoea or fever” caused by drinking polluted water, Mr Kambere added.

Not far from the health centre, Joelle, a frail woman of 20, crouched at a public tap, bent double under the weight of the container strapped to her back with a scarf.

“It’s not normal to live like this,” she said. “The authorities need to provide water to every home.”