Nairobi water crisis: Claims of water cartels controlling supply as shortage bites

Nairobi water crisis: Claims of water cartels controlling supply as shortage bites

Taps in most parts of Nairobi County will remain dry for two more weeks as the Athi Water Works Development Agency begins the process of repairing the destroyed Sasumua–Kabete pipeline that supplies water to the city.

The recent Nairobi water shortage brings to the fore unresolved water challenges facing residents amidst claims of water cartels controlling the supply of the precious commodity in the capital city.

Kawangware is one of the most affected areas: the taps have dried up and the residents are forced to camp at water selling shops to fill their jerricans.

In one of the shops, a 20-litre jerrican of clean water retails at Ksh.5

“Tunashida sana ya maji…karibu wiki mbili maji haijakuja…tulikuwa tunatarajia itakuja usiku lakini haikuja…tuna shida sana,” Esther Njoki, a resident said.

In the face of Covid-19 and Kawangware being a hotspot, residents say lack of water could expose them to the virus since washing of hands is one of the ways of keeping the disease at bay.

“Tunafungua saa kumi na moja na tunafunga saa moja na nusu…watu ni wengi hata ukiangalia saa hii,” Anthony Gatimu, a water vendor in kangemi told Citizen TV.

One motorist had to improvise his car just to carry enough water for his family: “Nimezunguka gichagi…tuna borehole tatu gichagi…lakini watu walikuwa wengi nikaona siwezi ngojea nikakuja kutafuta maji huku juu mountain view.”

For Catherin Karongo, a resident of Kasarani, the water shortage has dealt a big blow to her finances combined with the fear of exposing herself during this pandemic.

Vendors in this area charge Ksh. 70 for a 20-litre jerrican.

“Right now there is Covid even the vendors that are bringing to us you’re not sure of their health status so you can’t keep having people coming to your house to bring water,” she told Citizen TV.

“It is not a one-off problem but for this year we have not had this issue until now last year between September to December we were facing the same thing but at that time there was no Covid we were complaining and nothing was being done … all I can ask them is to stop being selfish because this is just being selfish and greed,” she added.

In Eastlands, residents of Umoja estate share the same fate: they depend on water vendors who move around the estate, never mind where the water is coming from.

“Tumekuwa tukihangaika juu ya maji…hakujakuwa na maji karibu wiki mbili hata kuna wale hawana pesa ya kununua na ndio wao ndio wana shida sana,” said Brian Wanyama, one of the residents.

Athi Water Works Development Agency (AWWDA) and the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company attribute the shortage to damage at the Sasumua – Kabete pipeline that supplies water to Nairobi.

The pipeline was cut off following a massive landslide in Karimenu River inside Kieni Forest in the Aberdare ranges.

“We sent our engineers there over the weekend and they have assessed the damage. We have started the repair work. The challenge is that we have to do an access road so we anticipate that we can repair the damage not later than in two weeks time,” said Eng. Michael Thuita, the chief executive officer at AWWDA.

However, residents remain adamant that the damage is not the only cause for the dry taps in the city. They accuse water vendors of interfering with the supply.

The agency says this will be sorted out once the registration of water vendors is complete.