COTU, KAM threaten protests over water shortage at EPZ

A dry tap. [Image: Courtesy]
The Central Organisation of Trade Unions has threatened industrial action over biting water crisis within the Export Processing Zones, Athi River.

COTU and Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) have separately written to government raising the red flag that over 20,000 jobs are at stake.

COTU claims the local provincial administration disconnected water in the EPZA zones that has now triggered a huge crisis with firms incurring huge losses.

“If these disruptions of water supply exercise in the zone is not stopped, then workers will be left with no alternative but to demonstrate to send a clear message to the public, the world and the government on what is going on,” COTU’s first Vice Chairman Joel Chebii told Interior PS Karanja Kibicho.

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The letter is copied to Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua.

The COTU officials accused Irungu of lack of consultation and said no new investors can set base in Kenya under such difficult work environment.

Manufacturing is part of President Kenyatta’s legacy projects under the Big Four Agenda.

“Countries like Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Mauritius have a very favourable business environment as free water supply and low electricity tariffs which will attract them there,” the Cotu vice chair said

KAM CEO Phyllis Wakiaga wrote to Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya protesting that the water crisis has compelled manufacturers to buy the commodity at five times the normal rate.

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“We would like to bring to your attention a persistent water crisis within the Athi River EPZ zone that houses a significant number of export-oriented firms, with the majority being apparel manufacturers,” she said.

She added the water supply challenge is increasing the unit of manufacture within the companies and threatening the sustainability of manufacturing within the zones that is supposed to have a well-functioning utility supply to support export-oriented manufacturing.

The association has requested an urgent meeting with Munya.

The union says Water PS Joseph Iringu triggered the crisis.

Irungu has insisted that the mandate of giving water to Kenyans is vested with his ministry and cautioned EPZA against selling any water.

For years, the authority has been buying bulk water from the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company for supply to factories and the rest the balance supplied to other customers, including those in Kitengela area.

“It’s by law, it’s by the Constitution and that is what we are reiterating,” Irungu said when he visited Kitengela.

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Export Processing ZonesWater Crisis