, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has warned that if Kenyans are not insistent in protecting forests, the country will only have a third of the water it currently has by 2012.
Professor Maathai said if deforestation continues, availability of water in the country will be extremely difficult.
“It is estimated that per capita need of water is 1700m³. Kenyans are using 600m³ which is less than half but by the year 2012, unless we are very aggressive in protecting our forests and harvesting rain water, it is estimated that Kenyans will have a per capita of 190 m³ which would be precarious,” the Nobel Laureate said.
She lauded the government for the commitment it had shown in the Mau forest conservation efforts.
She said both principals in the coalition government – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – had shown will and Kenyans should not read any negativity in the President failing to attend the tree planting ceremony scheduled for Friday.
“The President does not organise his diary and we are also pushing him to give us judges,” she said.
“I definitely I am going partly to honour the political commitment of these leaders and show my appreciation that this is the kind of leadership this country needs; leadership that is not selfish, that is visionary and looks at the common good of the country rather than personal gain,” she added.
The Mau forest complex is the largest water tower in the country occupying an area of 400,000 hectares out of which 100,000 has been destroyed through illegal encroachment and logging.
The Mau has been at the centre of controversy for the past year with the government efforts to reclaim the degraded forest being opposed by some leaders who are demanding for compensation of all the settlers in the forest.
Prof Maathai was speaking ahead of an International Water Congress meeting to be held in Uganda in mid March.
Uganda’s National Water and Sewerage Corporation Managing Director, Dr William Tsimwa told Capital News that the effect of Climate Change on water supply in the African continent was one of the key issues that would be discussed at the conference.
Dr Tsimwa said the 15th African International Water Congress and Exhibition would attract more than 80 water companies from across Africa.
He added that the use of the Lake Victoria waters would also be discussed at the meeting and Egypt, which almost has the sole use of the waters, had been invited to attend the meeting.
“We have Lake Victoria which is a big resource that can be used to cater for the arid areas in most parts of our East African region. So the Kampala meeting will be the forum where ideas can come up how this water can be bulk transmitted to the disadvantaged areas,” he said.
Dr Tsimwa said the continents service providers would sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) on mechanisms of implementing the water policies that are formulated.
“Whereas AMCOW is the policy making body on the African continent, they do make policies concerning water and sanitation but in most times the operators are not informed,” he said.
“So this Memorandum of Understanding is going to bring the policy makers together with the operators so that they can work out a mechanism of implementing the good policies that are being discussed on high level,” he added.
He said Prince Charles and Prof Maathai are expected to address the conference.