Act now to provide every Kenyan with clean water

 

Pupils at Migori Primary quench their thirst from tap water within the school compound. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Today is World Water Day. It’s yet another golden opportunity to reflect on the role of water in sustaining life and fostering development.

This day, designated by the United Nations, also underscores the need for proactive measures and collaborative efforts to achieve water security, globally.  

Kenya is among water-scarce countries but demand for the essential commodity continues to rise. With an estimated 15 million Kenyans lacking access to safe water, according to UN estimates, the gravity of the situation cannot be overstated.

The challenges facing our water, sanitation, hygiene and agricultural sectors are complex, ranging from inadequate infrastructure and limited funding to lack of access to safe water sources and sanitation facilities. There’s also limited knowledge on water harvesting and conservation.  Since independence in 1963, successive governments have paid lip attention to this crucial sector hence threats to public health, agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. Bring in climate change and the depletion of natural resources, the situation becomes dire.

Then, there’s the country's urban population rise leading to more demand for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural purposes intensifies. With millions facing hunger and the spectre of involuntary migration looming, the urgency of addressing water shortage is real. Failure to act will lead to social and economic inequalities and amplify conflict over resources.

Last year's devastating drought in the Horn of Africa was a stark reminder of the consequences of water scarcity. Farmers in Kajiado, Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit and other Asal regions sold livestock for as little as Sh500 as drought swept through a record 24 counties. 

While commendable efforts have been made by the government to bolster water security, much more needs to be done. President William Ruto’s administration should prioritise investments in water-related infrastructure in the 47 counties. Let’s go for robust policies that will protect catchment areas and reduce pollution.

The recent launch of the Sh3 billion state-of-the-art Mavoko Water Supply Project in Machakos was timely. The planned construction of 100 dams across the country over the next five years through public-private partnerships is a step in the right direction.

As we commemorate World Water Day, let us not only reflect on the challenges but also plan better and find solutions. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and the private sector, to work collaboratively towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.

By setting ambitious targets such as improving national water coverage to 80 per cent, sanitation coverage to 85 per cent, and increasing the area under irrigation to over 900,000 acres by 2027 in Kenya, the government will have started the journey to a more water-secure future.

Let us harness the momentum of World Water Day to galvanize collective action and ensure that access to clean water becomes a reality.

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