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Emerging small towns have been identified as a direct threat to water, sanitation and hygiene sustainability. [Photo, Courtesy]

Emerging small towns have been identified as a direct threat to water, sanitation and hygiene sustainability.

As the World Water Day is celebrated today, figures show Kenya’s per capita for water is dwindling rapidly.

Haphazard development can only strain water resources more; there has been an 80 per cent drop in the past 45 years.

Addressing the media, officials of humanitarian organisation Water Aid East Africa pointed out that small towns mainly grow without proper planning, hence the challenge of water.

Ronnie Murungu, the regional programme manager for WaterAid East Africa, said the towns which fall between major cities and rural areas lack programmes that focus on provision of safe water and sanitation services.

“Infrastructure development for small towns is lagging behind and this is creating a big headache as these urban centres continue to expand," said Murungu.

Several urban centres have emerged especially with the advent of devolution, most of them unplanned.

Both the county and national governments have been urged to ensure integrated development plans not only encompass the small towns but also place water at the centre of development.

“We need innovative strategies if we are to make awater a reality for everyone by 2030,” stated Olutayo Bonkale-Bolawole, the regional director of WaterAid East Africa.

Cartels and business interests have been blamed for continuously creating perpetual water shortages.

Sarine Malik, the coordinator of Africa CSO Network, which advocates water and sanitation rights, raised the issue of governance in the water.

The coordinator said there is a failure in enforcement which has allowed cartels to deny millions of Kenyans water.

“Nobody should supply water without some form of licence. This needs a joint effort to enforce; unless there is clear political will then it is a problem that will continue proving difficult to solve,” Malik said.

The concerns come at time when water resources in the East African region are dwindling. Kenya’s per capita water resource currently stands at less than 500 cubic metres per person, the lowest in East Africa. Uganda has the highest at 2,800 cubic metres, while Tanzania is at 1,600 cubic metres after a 50 per cent drop in 25 years.

Dr Ibrahim Kabole, the country director for WaterAid Tanzania, said one of the ways to save water could include wastewater treatment.

“Wastewater management is a viable option because with any new water project, the truth is that half of all the water will end up as wastewater,” he said.

But Bolawole added that even safe water is being wasted and there is need to find out where these wastages are coming from.

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