Kenya launches national water campaign

Roundup by Wang Jingzhong

NAIROBI, Mar 20, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi launched here Wednesday the National Water Campaign aiming at managing its water resources in a sustainable manner to reduce poverty and ensure adequate and quality water supply in the water- scarce eastern African country.

Addressing the launching ceremony, Moi called for the adoption of modern technologies and better management practices to conserve water in every sector of the country, pledging that the government will provide all necessary support ranging from policy formulation to financial spending to ensure the success of the campaign.

Kenya is classified as a chronically water scarce country, with more than 85 percent of its land being arid or semi-arid. Its annual per capita fresh water supply stands only at 647 cubic meters, much lower than the international standard of at least 1, 000 cubic meters.

Meanwhile, annual rainfall in the country varies from year to year. Droughts are endemic, and the storage capacity of the country's three thousand dams and pans are being gradually reduced by siltation and occasional heavy floods.

The drought occurred between 1998 and 2001 was so severe that it almost crippled the country's economy and put the number of people threatened by starvation at 4.7 million or 16 percent of the population.

The water situation in Kenya is worsened by growing population, water catchment degradation, declining of government funding, rising water demand, groundwater depletion and increasing pollution.

Waste of water is another factor. Take the capital city of Nairobi for instance, more than 50 percent of piped water flowing into the city is being lost through leakages.

"Diminishing water resources in the country is negatively impacting on socio-economic activities in the country, contributing to increased poverty," said Kenyan Minister for Water Development Kipng'eno arap Ng'eny.

The inadequate attention and under investment of water resources have led to increased degradation of the catchment areas through reduced river flows, increased siltation and pollution, the minister said.

In order to prevent the situation from further worsening, the Kenyan government has worked out a comprehensive strategy, which aims to improve water resources management, water and sewerage development as well as enforcement capacity and inadequate financing.

"The strategy underscores decentralization and separation of water resources management from policy formulation and administrative roles and putting in place sustainable financing mechanism," Ng'eny said.

The strategy also proposes the establishment of the Water Resources Management Authority to undertake all water resources management activities, he said.

"This is expected to elevate the profile of water resources management as water is a catalyst for economic development," the minister noted.

He assured that the government will continue to work with the World Bank and other international organizations as well as private sectors and nongovernmental organizations to achieve a sound management of the country's scarce water resources.

Speaking at the ceremony, Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), highly praised Kenyan government's strong commitment to improving water resources management, saying that this issue will be a priority at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He said that 230 million people living in 26 countries are classified as water deficient, and the number of affected countries is likely to grow rapidly.

Up to date, 14 countries in Africa are subject to water stress or water scarcity, and a rising demand for increasingly scarce water resources is leading to growing concerns about future access to water, particularly where resources are shared by two or more countries.

"These strains and stresses are potential sources of future conflicts which may be further worsened by the potential impacts of climate change," he warned.

He noted that past experience has proved that good water resources management need holistic, effective and participatory strategies, which should be ecosystem-based.

Meanwhile, domestic policies and actions should not be seen to be separate from international policies and actions, Toepfer said, adding that international cooperation, especially among countries sharing water resources, can address the transboundary nature of many water issues.

The UNEP boss pledged that his agency will join hands with Kenya and other countries in the world to address the environmental threats of water management.

Copyright 2002 XINHUA NEWS AGENCY.

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/20/2002 16:45:54