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Business steps up as Nairobi residents face unending water crisis | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- UPSTREAM: Volunteers [top left] clean up a section of Nairobi river during the World Water Day celebration in Nairobi. According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, the World Water Day, over 800,000 deaths every year in the world are caused by contaminated drinking water and improper hand washing. Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources workers [top right] help to clean up the Nairobi River. The rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi River was first initiated in 2008 as the river was found to be environmentally unfriendly, as many businesses along the river drain their affluent into the river. DOWNSTREAM: a polluted section [bottom] of the Nairobi River in Korogocho slums. Many residential homes in the slums lack proper sewerage hence discharging waste into the river. The populated urban informal settlement is characterized by sub-standard housing, lack of reliable sanitation services, supply of clean water and other basic services. XINHUA PHOTOS - SAM NDIRANGU, ALLAN MUTISO and CRYSTAL

Business steps up as Nairobi residents face unending water crisis

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s unending water crisis has spurred big business in the East African nation amid the biting effects of climate change.

The East African nation’s residents have over the years been grappling with water shortage, which has worsened as time goes by and population in towns surges.

From the capital Nairobi to the coastal city of Mombasa and the lakeside town of Kisumu, water remains a scarce commodity.

Prices have risen to an average of 0.50 U.S. dollars per 20 liter container.

This has led to a rising number of people engaging in the water business.

In the capital Nairobi and the suburbs surrounding it, small-scale traders buy in 20-liter containers and resell to residents depending on demand and supply.

On the other hand, large-scale sellers operate at two levels.

Some have several water bowsers which they use to source water and sell to residents in 5,000 liters quantities.

On the other hand, the other water sellers have sunk boreholes and supply water to homes, getting payment every month.

In Kitengela, a residential area on the outskirts of Nairobi, Moses Njeru is one of the water suppliers. Njeru has sunk a borehole from which he draws water and suppliers to dozens of homes.

"I have so far connected 45 homes which pay me at the end of the month.

"I sell a unit at 1.3 dollars," he told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The homes pay their bills at the end of every month.

Njeru, as many other water suppliers, charges 150 dollars deposit and 25 dollars connection fee to enlist the customers.

However, some suppliers charge as high as 500 dollars.

"It is big business," he acknowledged.

"But competition has increased because more people have sunk boreholes around here.

"Initially we were two, now we are six and some are charging 110 per unit," he said.

It costs at least 10,000 dollars to sink a borehole, according to Njeru, but one scoops his investment in about three years.

The suburb has over 100 water bowsers which buy the water from suppliers like Njeru and sell to residents at 25 dollars for 5,000 litres.

However, fresh water sold by water agencies that include Nairobi City County and Export Processing Zone to traders, who in turn supply residents in the capital and surrounding areas is the most expensive.

Nairobi residents are buying 5,000 litres of the commodity for up to 70 dollars, from half the price over a year ago.

"Sometimes I sell a 20-litre jerrican at 0.80 dollars.

"It depends with the demand," said Benson Nyamori, a water vendor in Komarock on the east of Nairobi.

The last two years have been good for Nyamori and other small water vendors.

This is because of a biting dry weather that disrupted water supply, forcing city water authorities to tighten rationing thus handing vendors like Nyamori business.

Data from Athi Water Services Board, which manages water resources in various urban areas, notes that 75 per cent of Nairobi residents do not get regular supply of piped water.

The city requires over 500,000 cubic meters of water daily, yet about half is supplied.

But it’s not all rosy for some borehole water suppliers across the country as some of the facilities have dried up, evaporating with hundreds of dollars worth of investment.

"With the current erratic weather caused by adverse effects of climate change and our poor water harvesting culture during rainy season, I don’t foresee the current crisis ending soon," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecture in Nairobi.

According to him, Kenya has failed to manage its water economics leaving citizens in the hands of private players.

"It is one thing that private businesses are supplying water but on the other hand the commodity is too costly especially for low income earners." he said.


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