What Kenya should do to address water shortage after climate meet

A pupil fetches water at Milima Mitatu Primary School in Marsabit Central. Drought in the county is contributing to high school drop-out rate. [Francis Kariuki, Standard]

The Africa Climate Summit 2023, whose theme was ‘Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World’, is the first-ever convened by the African Union.

Kenya was co-convener and host, and it discussed issues that have engaged the world for decades.

The main message from Nairobi is a call to world leaders to support global taxes to fund climate action and institute financial reforms to help African countries.

The Nairobi Declaration reiterated Africa’s readiness to create an enabling environment, enact policies, and unlock resources to not only meet our own climate commitments but contribute meaningfully to decarbonisation of the global economy.

It also urged world leaders to support the proposal for a carbon taxation regime including carbon taxes on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport, and aviation, together with a global financial transaction tax (FTT)) to provide dedicated affordable and accessible finance for climate-positive investments.

The leaders proposed a new financing architecture responsive to Africa’s needs including debt restructuring and relief, development of a new Global Climate Finance Charter through the United Nations General Assembly and Conference of Parties processes by 2025.

They decided to establish the Africa Climate Summit as a biennial event convened by African Union and hosted by AU Member States, to set the continent’s new vision taking into consideration emerging global climate and development issues.

The leaders also requested the AU Commission to develop an implementation framework and roadmap for the declaration and to make climate change an AU theme for the Year 2025 or 2026.

This will ensure climate remains an active agenda for AU and leads to specific climate actions. This will also accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set to expire in 2030.

The scarcity of water during drought and flooding in some areas during the rainy season has become a serious consequence and threat to life caused by climate change.

Kenya suffers a severe water crisis caused by droughts, forest degradation and bad land use, floods, poor water management, contamination, population growth, climate variability, and change and uneven distribution. About 85 per cent of Kenya is classified as arid or semi-arid. These areas suffer severe droughts and experience flooding during the rainy seasons. Good governance of water resources is key to addressing climate threats in this sector.

The Climate Change Act of 2016 provides a regulatory framework for enhanced response to climate change and measures to achieve low-carbon climate development.

It requires incorporation of climate change adaptation and mitigation in all sectors, including water, and the National Climate Change Action Plan while establishing the Climate Change Fund, as a financing mechanism.

The management of water resources is governed by comprehensive legal frameworks and a number of government bodies and agencies, with the latter providing administrative systems to regulate development and management of water resources and provision of water services at different levels.

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) is responsible for the water sector. The National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA), was established by the Water Act, Rev. 2016 to develop National Public Water Works for Water Resources Storage and flood control.

The NWHSA should be adequately funded to facilitate construction of all earmarked government dams and ensure proper water harvesting and storage. This will provide opportunities for irrigation and easy access to water.

Apart from the flagship dams in our Vision 2030, there are dams designated in nearly all counties with majority in arid and semi-arid areas.

In Kitui County, for example, water scarcity is a serious threat to people and animal lives, yet there are numerous government lands earmarked for dams that have gone unconstructed due to corruption, ineptitude and lack of prioritisation.

This is a challenge to NWHSA and government to prioritise construction of these dams to harvest and store water to help us achieve food security and ensure access to adequate potable water for all by 2030.