Tuesday, September 4, 2007

LGI News: Kisumu’s quest to quench its thirst

Kisumu sits on the shores of the world’s second largest fresh water lake, but the residents are most of the time thirsty.

The abundance of water in Lake Victoria against the scarcity brings to memory the proverbial man who lives by the river yet washes his face with dew.

For a long time, water vendors have cashed in on the shortage and reaped profits.

Contrary to the expectations, residents of the lakeside town are coughing up much more for the resource than other areas in Nyanza Province.

Most affected are the slum dwellers who do not enjoy the services of piped water, according to the managing director of the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (Kiwasco), Mr David Onyango.

A recent survey by the organisation found that a 20-litre jerrican is sold between Sh2 and Sh5 by water vendors, which adds up to Sh100 and Sh250 respectively for 1,000 litres. The cost at times shoots to between Sh10 and Sh20. Kiwasco, the town’s water services provider, charges much less for the same quantity of water.

Mr Onyango attributes the higher cost of water in informal settlements to lack of infrastructure that would allow residents to get water directly from the company.

“Except for a few recent developments, informal settlements are mainly served by spaghetti networks with a non-existent sewer network,” Mr Bernard Owiti, the technical services manager at Kiwasco reveals.

“Spaghetti networks”, he explains, are illegal, inter-twinning water connections that are used by people who steal water and sell it to consumers.

“The lack of infrastructure has been occasioned by poor planning in slums that makes it difficult to access the innermost parts of the town’s slums for laying of distribution networks,” Mr Onyango says.

Ms Vivian Castro, a water and sanitation programme consultant says the slums’ insecure land tenure and unplanned physical layouts make provision of services tricky.

Moreover, the economic status of slum dwellers, who account for about 60 per cent of the town’s population, has also been cited as an obstacle in the provision of water and sewerage services in Kisumu.

“The deposit, connection charges, and other expenses relating to opening and running a water consumer account render the services out of reach for many slum dwellers,” adds Mr Onyango.

Ms Castro adds that the low irregular incomes of slum residents, with limited capacity for large periodic payments, make the provision of water and sewerage services in slums “a risky commercial venture”.

Consequently, slum dwellers have had to depend on water vendors who are not only expensive, but also inconvenient, unsafe and unreliable.

Several strategies have been developed to rectify the situation and supply water and sewerage services to Kisumu slums.

Lake Victoria South Water Services Board chief executive Patrick Ombogo says that his team is working on the modalities of licensing and regulating providers of water and sewerage services to the informal settlements.

The first phase of the Kisumu water and sanitation project is set to be completed in one-and-a-half months, according to Mr Owiti, while the second phase will commence in December.

The two phase project, Mr Ombogo says, is aimed at extending water supply and sanitation coverage to 60 per cent of Kisumu Town by 2010 at a cost of Sh2 billion.

Urgent rehabilitation

“In the first phase, Sh450 million was spent on urgent rehabilitation on the existing water and sewerage infrastructure and is set for commissioning by late September,” explains Mr Ombogo.

He says under the first phase, 30 VIP toilets were built, three new pumps installed at Dunga treatment works, 1,400 water meters installed and one of the streams at Nyalenda waste water stabilisation ponds completed.

The successful completion of the rehabilitation phase, he says, is a pre-condition for the commencement of the expansion phase.

“The second phase of the project will involve expansion of the water supply infrastructure in Kisumu Town,” he says.

It will include the installation of new infrastructure at the intakes, treatment plants, and sewerage plants.

The second phase, according to Mr Owiti, would improve supply of water and sewerage services in areas of the town that were previously unserved. These include Migosi, Gudka, Dr Robert Ouko, Mosque, Okore, USAid and other estates.

Mr Owiti says Kiwasco piloted the delegated management model in Nyalenda slums and is keen on replicating it in other slums.

“Under this model, a private operator or community-based organisation pays connection fees and a monthly rate to Kiwasco and in turn retails to customers who it bills, while carrying out minor maintenance on the network,” he explains.

Ms Castro says that the delegated management model will lead to increased convenience and safety of water, besides reducing losses from unaccounted for water and regulating the water prices.

Water kiosks

Already, 13 licensed water kiosks have been installed. Mr Onyango says if the model is successfully applied in the town, Kiwasco will patent and export it to other countries.

Construction of licensed water kiosks has not been devoid of controversy.

Ms Esther Aduma, a legal consultant for the project, says that there was a land use conflict during the construction of the water kiosks.

Mr Alfred Adongo of Sana International, a local non-governmental organisation, recommends more efforts towards involvement of local residents to reduce the conflicts when setting up such kiosks.

“The Water Act recognises the importance of land owners and water companies can enter into lease agreement or purchase land from land owners for such activities,” Ms Aduma says.

Kisumu’s water supply is sourced from two treatment plants, says Mr Ombogo, which provide about 20,000,000 cubic metres to the town against a 45,000,000 cubic metres demand.

“The Kajulu treatment plant, built in 1942, has a 1,500,000-litre capacity while the 1964 Dunga treatment plant with and 21,000,000 cubic metres,” he explains.

Outstripping supply

The LVWSB chief executive attributes the frequent water shortages to the cases of demand outstripping supply.

“The urban poor suffer most, going for days without water and sewerage services, and when they get the service, it is usually at a higher price,” he adds.

Slum residents in Kisumu may however have something to smile about as they may soon enjoy cheaper water and sewerage services if an ambitious $3 million (Sh220 million) plan is approved by the World Bank.

Under the proposed project, the World Bank will subsidise water and sewerage services in Kisumu slums.

Already, Ms Castro discloses, a consultant is carrying out a feasibility survey of the project and a proposal for the project will be presented to the World Bank for approval by September.


okado.richard said...

you story was great

okado.richard said...

your article was great. you really potrayed the plight of kisumu ppeople appropriately. reetchy2001@yahoo.com