By Donald B. Kipkorir
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her: “Will you give me a drink?”
NAIROBI, KENYA: Last Saturday, June 15, I drove for about three hours to South Eastern Kenya University, in Kwa Vonza, Kitui, to attend the installation of Dr Titus Naikuni and Prof GM Muluvi as the University’s first Chancellor and Vice Chancellor respectively. My road trip exposed me to the beautiful Kitui countryside, which would have seemed straight out of a post-card, were it not for the tragic reality that the land is bereft of water. Along the entire route, the predominant activity seemed to be looking for water. Plastic jerricans are the most prized possessions. Then in moments of epiphany, I reflected that without supplying sufficient water to every household, then all our beautiful dreams of creating a middle-income Kenya is like blowing a trumpet in the desert.
Drinks sewage water
All great civilisations are built around water sources. The great Mayan Civilisation of Central America lasted from about 2,000BC to 950AD. They gave us the templates for modern Mathematics, Astronomy, Architecture and even the calendar we use. Drought hit the area and dried up the water sources, and the great civilisation just disappeared. Singapore, a sophisticated City-State, has developed a rich and thriving nation. With limited water resources, Singapore is the only state that drinks sewage water after taking it through the most advanced filtration process.
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Water lies at the root of human civilization. Water is the foundation for food, agriculture, livestock and industrial production. We use it for drinking, washing, cooking and for hydropower generation. Basically, water is life. Without it, no life exists. Water is at the centre of religious and cultural beliefs. The dawn of every creation and evolution story has water as its crucible.
Kenya has had since independence, missed targets to supply water to every household. Fifty years down the line, 58 percent of Kenyans don’t have access to potable water. These 58 percent of the population cannot believe that we envision a middle-income country by 2030, when they cannot get one glass o¡f dinking water. If an easily available commodity cannot be availed, how can we offer that which we cannot see?
The tribes of Orma and Pokomo, Pokot and Turkana, Somali and Borana, have been engaged in primitive clashes, based on scarcity of water sources and access to them. No developed country still has tribal clashes based on this. It therefore behooves our Government to have an integrated policy to avail water to all. Water cuts across all the Ministries that deal with Water, Security, Urban Development, Agriculture, Health and Livestock. Until we prioritize and resolve water supply to all, more than half the country will be left behind in primeval existence.
Military and History scholars agree that WWIII, and other national conflicts; will be caused by scramble for water, energy and food sources. Egypt and Ethiopia, Africa’s biggest armies are beating war drums over River Nile. River Nile is shared by twelve countries, but Egypt whose existence is solely dependent on the Nile, is falling back on ancient treaties to demand that all the other eleven countries, including Kenya, don’t interfere with the flow and volume of the Nile. The Ethiopian Parliament two weeks ago tore these treaties. Egypt’s threat is not empty. Without the Nile, it will cease to exist.
Jerricans and laptops
Without water to all Kenyans, we must defer our dreams. Water allows us to feed all, eradicate malnutrition and unhygienic caused diseases and thus cut medical costs, and also cease tribal clashes. Without water, we will never be a great civilization. None has been. As Central and County Governments compete in churning out visions and development plans, they ought to know, that without water to all, the dreams will be Potemkin villages.
We have water in our streams, lakes, springs, rock catchments, and the sea and sewage tanks. Counties can export water to neighouring counties. Let this generation be the last that replaced water jerricans with laptops, lest we, like the great English Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge [1772-1834] sing:
Water, water everywhere
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.