Dear Kenyans, it is time to fervently advocate for the safeguarding of our water resources.
Our country is classified as being water scarce by the United Nations. This is on the basis of it having one of the lowest natural water replenishment rates, at 647 cubic meters per capita per year, which is far below the global benchmark of 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year.
Despite this knowledge, we have allowed excessive pollution to continue threatening this critical resource.
Booming industries, agricultural activities at the periphery of the water sources, encroachment of the riparian zones by construction companies, growing population, and rapid urbanisation have resulted in the dumping of massive amounts of waste into Kenya’s water sources.
This has in turn compromised the quality and quantity of water in Kenya.
As a result, nationwide reports indicate that raw water in Kenya is too polluted with chemicals and heavy metals to be fit for irrigation, or human and livestock consumption.
Just recently, arsenic was found in our water sources. Research carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicates that arsenic causes cancer of the urinary bladder, lung and skin, and the agency classifies it in group 1 of carcinogens.
Upstream pollution has also increased the risk of various waterborne illnesses to communities living downstream.
This is an outright infringement of Kenyan people’s right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities as enshrined in Article 43 of the Constitution.
One would think that with such information we would act swiftly to safeguard our water sources. We have instead intensified pollution and catchment degradation, and enabled corruption at the expense of Kenya’s essential water resources, as though we do not understand that this resource is critical to our sustenance.
According to the United Nations water organisation (UN-Water) the total usable fresh water supply for ecosystems and humans is only about 200,000 km3 of water – less than one percent of all freshwater resources.
These global statistics reinforce the notion that water safety must be of utmost importance to governments, the private sector and the communities that consume it.
A recent exposé on water pollution by NTV titled ‘‘Toxic Flow’’ showed the urgency with which we need to safeguard these resources.
The relevant government ministries and agencies (Ministry of Environment, the National Environment Management Authority and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation) need to work in unison to protect this resource.
They need to: restore degraded catchment areas by planting trees, and enforce the “polluter pays” principle, where industries, companies and individuals responsible for pollution pay for the damage they cause.
These ministries should also clean the polluted water resources and ensure that no agricultural or human activity takes place at the periphery of the water sources. This type of intervention will ensure that our right to clean and safe water is safeguarded.
Claire Nasike Greenpeace Africa campaigner.