Pollution of Lake Victoria and mismanagement of its fresh water resources puts Kisumu City in a situation where there is a nightmare of water crisis
By Fred Obera
The growing inadequacy of water supply and scarcity of fresh and clean water is among the most important serious contemporary concern for many nations of the world regarding to its future availability, which will determine its availability of clean water and its potential scarcity and quality. Several factors have contributed the emerging water crises in the world which its result has led to poverty alleviation among the third world countries, these problems are such like the ever continued growing population in urban areas, contamination of surface water and groundwater, the frequent drought especially in the sub-Saharan Africa, the extreme global warming and the uneven distribution of water resources.
For over the last 20 years, the infamous Nile Water Treaties have come up for debate. Crafted during the British colonial rule in the 1959 agreement in particular gave Egyptians and Sudanese unfair powers for controlling the use of River Nile waters. Critics in the East Africa countries have voiced desire to do away the colonial – era pacts that, among other things, prohibit large scale irrigation, multilateral water companies or diversion of Nile waters without the consent of the Pharaohs. The merits of regenerating the Nile Treaties are not questionable given the inequalities perpetuated. What is lamentable, however, is the failure of some riparian countries to manage the water resources from the Lake Victoria such as the case of the Kisumu City in Kenya attests.
Paradoxically, what’s happening in Kisumu City-District underlines the moral of the African saying that “scarcity is the mother of human innovation”. Whereas the less-endowed and desert states in the down stream have grown wiser in their utilisation of the scare natural asset the same can’t be said of their upstream counterparts whose abundant reserves of waters are degraded by Municipalities. But as L. Karlen, Sida Programme Coordinator posed the challenge in his paper ‘Unity in Community Management Water And Sanitation Projects In Rural Kenya’, puts the moral dilemma succinctly that, “In rural Kenya less than 40% of the population have access to clean water within reasonable reach. Women and children trek long distances to carry home a 20-litre jerycan to a family of 7-10 members. This scarce water supply is mainly used for cooking and drinking. Little water is available for washing and cleaning. Hygiene standard is therefore low and diseases are frequent, affecting mostly younger children”.
The point of L. Karlen is relevant and timely especially in a case where Kisumu district draws 80% of its water supplies from Lake Victoria-and in a sad state of affairs that our government (Municipalities) and people (leaders) mismanage the waters of the lake and making majority of Kisumu district people leaving without the basic necessity, water accessibility which is pumped right from the lake, which is just a throw away stone.
At the moment three urgent questions are posed at the beginning of this paper having notified the water crises in Kisumu without abundant water at the melting port of Kisumu being a city in the Lake. The first question concern in what way can the Lake Victoria fresh water provide water for the Kisumu district residents adequately without the ever existing water crises? Second part of the question goes this way, with the water inadequacy or crises in rural areas and most urban areas in Kenya, which way forward can the government pump water direct from Lake Victoria to their need? Third question can water from Lake Victoria save the Kenyan economy? It has always been claimed in the water sector by specialists that water is central for sustainable development both from macro and micro-perspective. At the macro level, water supports projects, while it is an essential ingredient for supporting livelihoods at the micro level. And in order to elevate the crises of water in the district, basically for a sustainable rural and urban water development, among others, the following issues must be generally considered to be major importance;
- Availability of water and availability in space and time.
- Need to increase storage capacities either from 2% to 10%.
- Need to set up projects and programmes to mobilize and sensitise communities both rural and urban to participate in mitigating pollution and water quality degradation due to industrial, urban and agro-based effluents.
The water crisis in the district is not much lacking of knowledge, resource or technology. Neither the tales of the infamous Nile Water Treaties has hindered Kisumu to harness water for domestic use. Kisumu thirst simply because of poor leadership in governance. What is more important to know is that, if the district can improve water resource management therefore, the food security and environmental sustainability will be achieved without using a lot of resources, with special focus on the reduction of poverty and hunger and the improvement of human health; these are chief issues we have to take into consideration and be concern about. Since hence the district economy lies within the proper use of the Lake.