LETTERS: How to best address the water challenge

As temperatures continue to increase, water becomes scarcer. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An article titled “Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink” published in the Business Daily on May 14 caught my attention due to the absolute absurdity of this calamitous situation facing our country at this Covid-19 moment when we especially need copious flows of adequately treated water to maintain the highest levels of hygiene. The question that went through my mind was why should such a situation persist in a country that has been independent for close to 60 years yet cannot seem to effectively plan for the most basic of human needs? Water is life and the lack of water is a complete negation of the universal right to life enshrined in our hallowed constitution. As we lament our unfortunate lack of long term water infrastructure planning for a growing population, it is important to also understand the wider regional and global conundrum which is unfolding around us and the critical role that effective risk management coupled with innovation and collaboration can play to mitigate the risks we are experiencing.

Globally, there is a bleak outlook for billions of people in relation to sufficient access to clean water. According to the United Nation’s Water Development Report 2019, recently highlighted in the Business Daily, more than two billion people suffer “high water stress” while about four billion experience “… severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.”

The report further predicts that the situation could get worse as climate change will affect availability, quality and quantity of water negatively impacting the water and sanitation sector for billions of people all over the world. The important point to note here is that climate change is the elephant in the room and we need to understand it and address it.

The excessive flooding, we are experiencing not only in Kenya but in East Africa in general is a byproduct of climate change. The challenge of climate change in East Africa was recently analyzed in the “Horizon East Africa” (2019) research project authored by Msingi, Kenya Markets Trust and Gatsby Africa.

This research project explored the trends that are likely to shape the future in East Africa. The report categorically stated “Climate change poses a major threat to East Africa” as temperatures continue to increase, water becomes scarcer and sea levels rise to the point of flooding coastal settlements. It predicted that unfolding situation will put rural livelihoods at risk, compromise food security as temperatures rise and lakes become less habitable for fish.


The research further predicts that the number of climate refuges in East Africa is projected to rise from about 1.8 million in 2020 to between 6.9 million and 10 million by 2050.

It seems the predictions of the 2019 Horizon East Africa project have surely and viciously come to pass in East Africa. In May, water levels in Lake Victoria have risen to unprecedented levels threatening to completely submerge long established Island and lakeside settlements. The same has been seen in the recent flooding in the Tana delta where massive swaths of previously dry lands have been flooded rendering thousands homeless. Flooding has also been experienced in areas around the Mara river with destruction of tourist facilities and investments that have in the past attracted numerous tourists positively impacting local livelihoods.

Climate change should be of great interest to those of us in the Insurance Industry where our inter related roles as risk managers, insurers and investors contribute in promoting economic, social and environmental sustainability commonly referred to as sustainable development.

With the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015, there is growing pressure and urgency across all sectors of society to respond and find solutions to sustainability challenges the world is facing.

There is a growing recognition that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues—also known as sustainability issues— pose a shared risk to insurers, communities, businesses, cities, governments and society at large, providing a strong incentive for innovation and collaboration.

Despite the doom and gloom, the good news is that this call to innovate and collaborate for a sustainable world has been actualised through the 2012 launch of “Principles of Sustainable Insurance” (PSI).

The four Principles for Sustainable Insurance, including a list of possible actions, provide a common aspiration and global framework for the insurance industry to manage ESG issues, and to strengthen its contribution to building resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities and economies.

Caesar Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer, ICEA LION Insurance Holdings.