Politicians dangle the water and sanitation carrot ahead of poll date

By David Njagi

Almost half of politicians vying for elective posts in the March 2013 General Elections have placed growth in the water and sanitation sector as their development agenda if elected.
Some analysts say the choice of the sector as the campaign card is likely to win the hearts of many Kenyans since March is Kenya’s long rains season. And so will be the opportunity for politicians to be put to test.
Others argue that the sector is proving attractive to politicians as the rallying point since it is one of the most corrupt and mismanaged in the country. And so they would like to inject fresh leadership to push for reforms.
“Water and sanitation is one of the most basic needs among households,” says political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi. “Yet it is one of the most abused hence the struggling poor cannot have quality services. Some politicians want to prove they can change this.”
But the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says the sharing of water as a resource could be contentious as County leaders ponder on how to allocate its use in a post poll scenario.
According to the chairman, Ahmed Issack Hassan, the adoption of the new County Governments means that communities will have to agree on how to share cross border resources.
For instance, River Tana, the biggest one in Kenya, passes through almost half of the country yet there is no guideline on how to share its waters among lower and upper riparian communities.
“It is loopholes like these that caused the Tana Delta conflict,” says Hassan. “Politicians also know there is demand for irrigation agriculture because the government pledged to raise the amount of budget it allocates to the sector.”
Among the reforms that politicians are promising to inject into the sector include, large scale water harvesting, renewing waste water through technologies such as distillation, as well as automating the water sector.
“I will extend my legacy when I was the Mayor of the Nairobi City Council to provide clean water and sanitation services to the city residents,” said Philip Kisia, a Nairobi County aspirant, during a weekend campaign rally.
However, a new report released yesterday (Wednesday) suggests that the measure of fulfilling campaign pledges will be pegged on the implementation of Kenya’s Social Protection Policy which came into force in May 2012.
According to the report Enhancing Revenue Capacity to Advance Human Welfare, politicians cannot be trusted to push Kenya’s development agenda without the involvement of stakeholders.
“There is need for vigilance to create demand for basic human rights within communities through the involvement of non state actors,” concludes the report.

Water story pix

Water story pix


About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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