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Dirty water ‘leading cause’ of diseases

BUSINESS
By | March 23rd 2010

By Ally Jamah

Kenya marked World Water Day amid reports that the country’s 80 per cent of diseases were water-related.

This has resulted in a huge healthcare bill for ordinary Kenyans who are the most affected since they lack access to clean water.

Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu Monday said most water bodies were filled with raw sewage, agricultural and industrial waste that threatened human life.

"Unless drastic action is taken to stop wanton pollution of water sources there will be no guaranteed supply of quality water in the near future," she said in a statement.

Even on World Water Day, Tyo Leli of Vitsngalaweni village in Msambweni District at the Coast could not get the cleanest of the commodity for domestic use. [Photo: OMONDI ONYANGO/standard]

About 60 per cent of Kenyans have no access to treated water and rely on boreholes, rivers and lakes, meaning the effect of pollution will affect millions of people.

The theme this year "Water Quality: Challenges and Opportunities" brought into sharp focus the rapidly deteriorating quality of water.

In many parts of the country, raw sewage drains into rivers, lakes and the sea, thereby exterminating life in those water bodies.

In Mombasa, Wajir and Kano, boreholes are increasingly contaminated by waste from pit latrines.

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger called for the Government to provide water and instill hygiene practices among Kenyans.

Adequate services

"The impact of the lack of adequate services on the wellbeing and productivity of Kenya’s growing population is profound," he said in a statement.

Unep Executive Director Achim Steiner said more people were dying as a result of polluted water than were killed by violence.

"Investing in protecting water sources from pollution would reduce the time spent away from work or in hospital," he said.

Statistics show more than two million tonnes of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways every year.

At least 1.8 million children under five years die yearly from water-related diseases.

Steiner said natural purification systems like mangroves and wetlands should help reclaim polluted water sources.

"At Shimo la Tewa in Mombasa, a wetland development project is purifying waste water from the jail and generating opportunities for fish farming and biogas," he said.

Executive Director of UN Habitat Anna Tibaijuka said pollution of water in urban centres made water treatment more expensive and may cause its price to go up.

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