Communities around the Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests face an imminent water shortage as the Government acts to protect rivers.
For the past week officers from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Water Resources Authority have been enforcing an order by the Water ministry to disconnect all illegal connections from rivers inside the two forests.
The order has seen households that depend on the rivers go without water and affected irrigation activities in the region.
Affected residents said indiscriminate destruction of intakes had left dry taps in schools and hospitals.
“Not all the intakes are illegal. Some of us had acquired licences to draw water for domestic use. Now even hospitals and schools do not have water,” said Mary Njeri.
More than 30 intakes have been disconnected along rivers Sagana and Thegu, which originate from Mt Kenya.
According to the KFS acting commandant, Wilson Leboo, there are more than 600 abstraction intakes on rivers originating in the two forests.
“It was also observed that the water being abstracted was not metered and had numerous leakages.
“The exercise is being undertaken to pave the way for an audit of all the intakes and to establish the rivers’ carrying capacity,” Mr Leboo said.
But residents complained that the blanket ban had left homes, health centres and schools with no water and that no temporary solution had been provided as the State audited permits.
“Farmers who were legally permitted to use this water in their irrigation are being ignored and no one is listening to their outcry. We must support conservation of water resources, but not through discriminating measures,” said Kevin Mugambi.
In Kirinyaga, an operation to cut off all water intakes in Mt Kenya Forest was halted after it was established that some of the intakes supplied schools and hospitals.
Gichugu MP Gichimu Githinji pleaded with the Kenya Forest Service for more time to find a solution.
The MP said the intakes were established decades ago for domestic water supply.
“From the Kirinyaga side of the Mt Kenya Forest, there has never been any reported drying of rivers,” he said.
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He called for consultations before any intake was destroyed.
“It should also be understood that all our water supply intakes have been licensed.”