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Why Kenya needs to ban bottled water

By Isaac Okoth | Published Fri, October 12th 2018 at 00:00, Updated October 11th 2018 at 21:54 GMT +3

Sophia Bush once said that “…people who don’t think it’s a big deal to toss a plastic bottle in the garbage are not only being irresponsible, but…disrespectful of all the other humans on Earth.” But I am a believer of the Problem Tree Analysis which argues that to solve a problem sustainably, the root cause must be identified and eliminated. In this case, the problem is pollution while the root-cause is plastic bottles. This simply means that if there were no plastic bottles in the first place, respect to nature would be automatic. The use of plastic bottles has been a trend in Kenya and as an advocate for Sustainable Development, I often get into conflict with my siblings during road trips for I loathe plastics. If we are to become a healthier and smarter nation, bottled water need to be banned in Kenya.

Situation in Kenya

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The capitalism in Kenya is shocking as people consider money important than even the lives of fellow humans. That is why we talk about contraband poisonous goods roaming in the market freely and not even the government can do anything about it. Today, bottled water is sold in every corner of the country making one question how many bottled water companies do we have in Kenya and where are they located. Truth is, some of the bottled water that you buy are of poor quality than the tap water since the hygiene standards are not adhered to. I guess in such a corrupt nation, so long as you can give the “dividends” to the relevant authorities, it doesn’t matter how many people you kill.

The Risks

A significant number of bottled water sold in Kenya are neither pure nor pristine. Most of them are filled with tap water as the goal of inhuman entrepreneurs is to maximize profits while the Kenya Bureau of Standards have done so little to ensure that such malpractices do not exist. Only a few of the bottled water come from groundwater and spring sources as indicated on their labels. Even the major companies only filter or use the ultraviolet light to radiate the tap water and never take some of its biological, chemical and physical properties into consideration hence putting the health of Kenyans at risk. Again, the plastic used in bottled water is a hazardous pollutant. Even though most of these plastics are BPA-free, they have some chemicals that can contaminate the water if exposed to heat or used to hold water for a long time. The impacts of these chemicals are not yet clear, it is predicted that it can disrupt the endocrine system. I believe no Kenyan should be a subject to such an experiment without his or her consent.


Manufacturing of the bottles consumes a significant amount of water and fuel hence unsustainable. The fight over water as a scarce resource in Kenya has already escalated and now it is not only between the individuals at the local level but also among counties. Kenyans can no longer afford to waste such resources to please a small group of capitalist crooks. Furthermore, most of these bottles are non-biodegradable thus affecting the ecosystem. For instance, the plastics have chocked the Nairobi River to the extent that at an informal settlement such as Mukuru Kayaba, one can literally walk on the river just as Jesus walked on the lake.

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Possible Alternatives

The local government and other relevant stakeholders should enhance the investment on the management of the water systems. If the quality of tap water is improved, then there will be no need for bottled water.

Kenyans should also be encouraged to use water bottles that are durable and reusable. The Kenya Bureau of Standards should ensure that the bottles in the market are free from BPA or be made of stainless steel.

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Banning of the bottled water means Kenyans will live healthier, save money, and enhance sustainability. Therefore, policies should be put in place to encourage Kenyans to use reusable bottles as opposed to the bottled water. If we managed to ban plastic bags which many Kenyans considered a necessity; how hard will it be to have a life without bottled water?

Isaac Okoth is the CEO and Founder at Institute for Green Development and a freelance consultant on Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Environmental Studies and Community

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