Kenya needs modern tech to bridge sanitation access gap

Claire Wamae, sales engineer at Davis & Shirtlif. [File, Standard]

Most households in Kenya are still far from getting access to sanitation facilities that meet reasonable standards as enshrined in Article 43 of the constitution.

More than a decade after the enactment of the new constitution and Vision 2030, the social-economic blueprint was envisaged to catalyse the development of sewerage networks, but a lot still needs to be done.

A Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) 2022 Impact Report puts Kenya’s sewer network coverage at a paltry 16 per cent, a far cry from the 80 per cent target set in 2008 when the Kenya Vision 2030 was unveiled.

The overwhelming majority of our population currently rely on onsite sanitation such as septic tanks and pit latrines. The dire consequences of this reality are visibly seen in the sorry state of rivers, particularly the Nairobi, Mathare and Ngong rivers.

Intended to nourish arid areas downstream en route to the Indian Ocean, these rivers are now choked with foul-smelling sewage and industrial waste, including harmful chemicals and plastics, plaguing the country with waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.

A 2023 World Health Organisation (WHO) bulletin titled; Reaching Vulnerable Populations in Kenya’s Cholera Outbreak, shows the country recorded over 7,800 cases of cholera and 122 preventable deaths since October 2022.

This translates to about 780 cases and 12 preventable deaths every month to signify the sanitation crisis facing the country and its ripple effects on healthcare.

The slow growth in the sewerage network could imply low investments towards this infrastructure or the population is growing faster than the development of these networks.

With Kenya’s population, rapidly growing from 37.7 million recorded in the 2009 census to 47.6 million in 2019, existing sewer infrastructure gets overburdened by the day. This is bound to be exacerbated by the Affordable Housing Programme.

Amidst this urgency, concerted efforts are required from all sectors – private, public and academic – to achieve countrywide standard sanitation by 2030.

Within the private sector space, Davis & Shirtliff has been playing a role in Kenya’s pursuit of safely managed sanitation, with the firm offering alternative wastewater treatment solutions that employ modern technologies.

Unlike the old sewage treatment solutions and conventional septic tanks or onsite sanitation facilities, the modern units incorporate sludge treatment to ensure treated effluent is safe for discharge into storm drains or reuse in irrigation, toilet flushing and general cleaning.

This eliminates the need for exhauster services. Wastewater treatment plants that employ technologies such as the Moving Bed Bio Reactor (MBBR), Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) and Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) are also now in the market.

 -The writer is a sales engineer at Davis & Shirtlif