Online service gives Kibera slums access to clean water


Kibera slums: Access to water is crucial to improving living conditions in informal settlements. FILE

A new service aiming at facilitating access to water in Kibera might help solve one of the biggest barriers to slum upgrading.

The Watsan Portal is an online platform that allows individuals, community groups, NGOs and businesses to obtain a price estimate for a connection to the sewerage and water grids.

The service, launched by KDI and Spatial Collective in partnership with Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, is currently available for the Gatewekera and LainiSaba areas, with prospects to expand to the whole of Kibera.

“This has the potential to change the face of Kibera through easing access to such services,” said KDI country director Charles Newman.

It only takes a couple of minutes to create a profile and be directed to an interactive map through which visitors can assess the feasibility of bringing sewerage and water in areas of interest.

The website then lists the necessary documents and requirements to apply for a connection with Nairobi Water, among them a proof of land ownership such as a title deed or a letter from the chief, and a sketch of the site for which a connection is sought.

Access to water is considered crucial to improving living conditions in informal settlements, but infrastructure development is often made difficult due to issues of land ownership and land tenure.

Poor sanitation conditions in Kenya’s informal settlements, including lack of access to toilets and water evacuation, has been leading to major public health and security problems in the communities concerned.

In 2012, the World Bank revealed that Kenya loses Sh27 billion each year, or 0.9 per cent of its GDP due to poor sanitation, mainly due to health care costs and loss of productivity as a result of sickness.

Conflicts have also been arising around access to water in informal settlements. “Water is life, and water is power in Kibera. All the more reasons to make it accessible through that website,” said Mr Newman.

KDI is a non-profit that has been involved in several architectural and engineering projects in Kibera since 2007, working with community groups to build public spaces like playgrounds, public toilets, community halls and business kiosks.

Spatial Collective is a social enterprise using Geographic Information Systems for community development.