Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Kenyatta calls for highest commitment in managing water resources


By Edmund Smith-Asante, NAIROBI

President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the 18th AfWA Congress
Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has called for the highest level of commitment from African governments in the management of the continent’s water resources.

This he said, would not only ensure the effective management of the water resources but also lower the potential for conflicts as a result of water scarcity.

Opening the 18th International Congress and Exhibition of the Africa Water Association (AfWA) in Nairobi last week Monday, President Kenyatta said “there is great need that we must work harder, if we are to achieve the sustainable clean access to water that our people rightly deserve,” adding, “In fact, we shall need the highest level of commitment to push ahead a continental and eventually the global agenda for change in the management of our water resources.”

He stated that this was not something that needed contemplation, “for indeed as population rises and livelihoods are threatened by the unsustainable consumption of water resources, productivity decreases and the potential for conflict over the scarce resource also increases. This may be particularly important in the horn of Africa where water security has real economic, social, ecological as well as political value.”

The theme of the congress was “Sustainable access to water and sanitation in Africa”.

Global water situation

President Kenyatta cited the UN Water report of 2014, which projected that global water would dry up by some 55 per cent by 2050, which meant that freshwater availability would be increasingly strained, with more than 40 per cent of the world’s population living in areas of severe water stress by 2050.

However, while cautioning that Africa would be among those severely affected by the water stress, he indicated that all was not gloom, saying the WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme in its final report detailed significant progress on access to drinking water and sanitation at the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

“The goal indicates that 91 per cent of the global population used improved drinking water resources and services up from 1990. This means that approximately 6.6 billion people in the world have access to improved sources of drinking water. Those without access stand around 663 million, the very first time the number has fallen below 700 million,” he stated.

He said water was a right and that every Kenyan should have access by 2030 according to the country’s blue print, pledging that Kenya will work closely with international water organisations to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This is why we felt strongly supporting the 3rd International Water Association (IWA) development congress in 2013 as well as our election to the World Water Council in 2015 and now the hosting of the 18th AfWA International Water Congress and Exhibition,” he noted.

President Kenyatta told the delegates that to make the theme a reality, the congress ought to come up with practical solutions to the challenges Africa faced in providing its sons and daughters with water that they needed.

These, he said, included sustainable water resource management, the governance of water utilities, the promotion of information technology, and reduction of non-revenue water, together with reliable water distribution, prudent infrastructure development and adaptation of best practices and operation and maintenance must be thought about.

Consequence of lack of access

In his welcome address, the outgoing President of AfWA, Professor Hamanth Kassan, said “one of the consequences of a lack of access is the startling statistic, which we should all be conscious of; that is every 12 seconds one child dies of water-borne disease.”

He stated that most of the innocent children were from Africa and were below the age of five, adding that human kind, including water professionals, therefore, had an obligation to rise to the challenge facing the African continent, by seeking, finding and creating innovative solutions, in order to improve the lives of the African people.

It was for that reason, he said, that the sessions of the conference had been designed to focus on innovations, capacity building, governance and performance. “We should all be reminded that history will judge us not on the basis of what we said, but rather, on the basis of what we delivered,” he said.


Professor Hamanth Kassan
Water and poverty

The Cabinet Secretary of Water and Irrigation, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, said in an education and poverty survey conducted in Kenya in 2009, 46 per cent of the respondents indicated that the provision of water was the most crucial aspect to get them out of poverty.

He therefore, called for a review of policies, an analysis of implications and the necessary actions for interventions under water, food and energy.

He said the Ministry of Water in Kenya was about to undertake groundwater mapping in three phases in conjunction with county governments, corporations, development partners and academia, to identify areas of high groundwater potential, in order to enhance the effectiveness of managing the resources for development.

“In Kenya we increased our annual budget allocation from $5 million to $450 million in a period of less than 10 years, yet this is not enough as still more than 20 million Kenyans do not have access to safe drinking water, while more than 10 million do not have access to better sanitation,” Mr Wamalwa said.

Writer’s email: edmund.asante@graphic.com.gh

FACT SHEET

The AfWA was established 36 years ago and continues to make strides in ensuring that utilities from the member states engage and partner with each other with the aim to improve service delivery.

NUMBER CRUNCH

More than 1,500 delegates from 81 countries including water professionals and allied service providers are attending the 18th AfWA Congress and Exhibition.

 

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