Growing homes fuel Wajir's water challenge, says official

CEC says most new settlements are two to three kilometres apart

In Summary

• She says problem is partly caused by politicians who encourage the new settlements.

• Says county will hold forum to address mushrooming settlements 'which was already getting out of hand. 

A woman fetches water at Wajir's Bor water pan on May 29, 2017.
FRESH WATER PROBLEM: A woman fetches water at Wajir's Bor water pan on May 29, 2017.

As the global society prepares to mark World Water Day on March 21, accessing fresh water has been a challenge in Wajir for decades. 

The day focuses on the importance of fresh water and has been held since 1993. 

The county measuring over 56,000 square kilometres depends on shallow wells with 70 per cent of the boreholes having saline water. 

In an exclusive interview with the Star in her office, Water executive Elba Bashir said the department is also grappling with mushrooming settlements. 

Bashir said the county will soon hold a water and settlement conference with the main agenda being the issue she said was already getting out of hand. 

The problem, the CEC said, is partly caused by politicians who encourage the new settlements noting that time had come to resort to the former existing centres so the "meagre" resources are not divided.

“Water is an expensive resource. We cannot give services to each settlement bearing in mind that most of them are two to three kilometres apart. This is a very big challenge." 

Wajir Water executive Ebla Bashir in talks to the Star in her office on Thursday.
CHALLENGE: Wajir Water executive Ebla Bashir in talks to the Star in her office on Thursday.

The water executive said the county has started an exercise to desalinate the boreholes. 

The pilot project through which two boreholes in each subcounty will be desalinated via reverse osmosis will be done in partnership with Boreal Water Company and World Vision.  

Bashir said the reverse osmosis plant is cheaper than water tracking across the county during the dry season.

“Last year the county used almost Sh300 million on water tracking alone. When you do the calculation you find that this plant is cheap since we will only be required to pay Sh5 million per plant with Boreal paying the other Sh5 million." 

Adding, "We have done mega water pans, more than 50,000 cubic metres in all six subcounties of Wajir. We have drilled close to 300 boreholes, all of them active. We still have a long way to go but we are somewhere." 

Chief Officer Ahmed Omar said maintaining the boreholes has also been another challenge with communities insisting on managing them. 

“We are appealing to residents to hand over all high yielding boreholes to Wajir Water and Sewerage Company for maintenance. The community wants to collect the money but when there is a breakdown they run to the county asking us to fix the problem," he said. 

Residents who spoke to the Star expressed optimism that when the county implements the project fully, it will benefit them. 

"We have been buying drinking water for decades. We hope and pray that thing works out as planned," Mohamed Hassan of Bure in Wajir North said. 

During the launch of the solar-powered machine, Governor Mohamed Abdi said water is not only a basic need but a fundamental human right that is supposed to be provided in the right quality, quantity and place. 

World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water.

It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Edited by R.Wamochie