, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – The Northern Water Collector Tunnel is the best way to avert future water shortages in the country, according to hydrology expert Prof George Krhoda.
Krhoda, who served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water in former President Mwai Kibaki’s Government, told Capital FM that the project – however demonized – was the only cure to perennial water scarcity that Nairobi could experience, should alternative water sources to recharge Ndakaini dam fail to materialise.
“There was the option of building a mega water reservoir in Murang’a. But since Murang’a is a fairly densely populated area and it has agricultural land, it was not feasible to build a dam – it would displace a huge number of people and even the compensation cost would be huge,” said Prof Krhoda.
According to him, the decline in water levels at the Ndakaini dam is as a result of a number of factors among them poor planning that led to the erecting of structures on water basins and catchment areas.
This, he said, makes it impossible for rivers to recharge during drought seasons, since the land adjacent to them is concretized.
“The problem of water in Nairobi is more complex; you find that river channel storages have been destroyed by construction of apartments close to the rivers,” he observed. “All the rivers are cemented; which delivers water more efficiently from land to the ocean.”
According to Prof Krhoda, while climate change may be real, the impact of climate change has been superimposed in Kenya, since it is a global challenge yet other cities have been able to manage it. The hydrologist noted that much needed to be done to improve on water harvesting and minimize on wastage of water by building water treatment plants.
“We cannot start telling Nairobians to start creating roof catchments and have their own storage tank,” he said. “Good as that may be, it will just increase mosquitoes and water borne diseases. If water harvesting is the way to go, then it needs to be collected to a central reservoir, treat it and take it back to the city.”
He however cautioned that the construction of the collector tunnel alone without implementation of the other two phases of the project namely; expansion of clean and waste water treatment facilities.
“This infrastructure must be seen in totality. Not any part must be dismantled. If we have these whole three phases of infrastructure then we can begin to plan for water reuse, which is what most cities do.”
Prof Krhoda also dismissed claims that the implementation of the project would turn some parts of the country in to deserts saying, adjustments could be made once the tunnel is in place instead of glaring at uncertainties.
“I think the Northern Water Collector Tunnel is an idea who time has reached,” he said.
On Thursday, Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa told a press conference at the National Treasury that construction of the Northern Water Collector Tunnel was vital to delivering a solution on water shortages facing the city of Nairobi, which he attributed to climate change and population growth.
“We will develop many dam and increase our capacity. But we are facing many challenges including political challenges but unless we develop the Northern Water Collector Tunnel to recharge Ndakaini then we will still have water problems in Nairobi,” said Wamalwa while addressing journalists on the drought situation in the country in the company of Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and his National Treasury counterpart, Henry Rotich.
The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company is currently implementing a water rationing programme which is expected to run until April as a result of a decline in water levels at the Ndakaini Dam.