Protecting Kenya’s water pipelines 

East Africa is a region that has historically been among the most water-stressed in the world over the last decades.  Various factors such as droughts, overpopulation, semi-arid lands, increasing demand, vandalism of pipelines, and water theft, have led to high Non-Revenue Water (NRW) causing problems such as water shortage,  water contamination, and the spread of contagious diseases.

Let us look into the issues of Kenya in particular and how their national government devised a solution for it. 

Kenya has been massively affected by these crises. The capital city Nairobi has an estimated demand of 850 million litres per day but has a production of just 525 million litres per day.  The rapid urbanization, high population growth, water pollution, and lack of proper rainfall make things worse. Adding to these woes, there are networks of water cartels all over the city and country. These groups are involved in tampering with water meters, siphoning off water from the supply lines, vandalism of pipelines, and targeted attacks on tanks and other water infrastructures. The water cartels sell the stolen water at exorbitant prices. The residents end up spending a large portion of their earnings on their daily water needs.  

All of these problems have culminated in a huge threat to the future of Kenya. The average national NRW is at an alarming rate of more than 40%, resulting in a loss of Sh 10.6 billion ($80 million) annually. The water cartels’ activities in particular have caused great damage to the nation’s water infrastructure.

The Government of Kenya has worked on a decisive plan to tackle issues. The proposed rehabilitation of water resources involves the construction of 100 dams and boreholes and the planting of 15 billion trees. There was also another initiative drafted to ensure protection for all the existing and upcoming water infrastructure assets of Kenya.

Image: EZEKIEL AMING’A

The National Government has introduced a special police force unit dedicated to protecting water pipelines, water towers, and other water infrastructure units, and to prevent the crimes against these assets.  Thus the Water Police Unit (WPU) of Kenya was born. Under this initiative, the government has granted special protection of all water assets owned and operated by the eight Water Works Development Agencies across the country.

 

The WPU was launched in early 2023 by the National government with more than 350 officers. The unit has started to create a great impact right from its initial days. During March 2023, WPU at Nairobi carried out a crackdown on illegal water connections and vandalism. Over 700 illegal water pipeline connections were disconnected and over 25 people were arrested. It was then followed by another crackdown where many car wash businesses violating the water regulations were shut down. 

Image source: kenyans.co.ke

This initiative by the Government of Kenya is the right step in the drive towards solving the country’s water woes. Once it becomes highly successful, it could set a precedent for the entire East Africa region to overcome one of the biggest socio-economic issues across these countries.

Source:

https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2023-01-30-state-launches-police-unit-to-protect-water-infrastructure/

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/africa/kenya-s-new-water-police-can-teach-east-africa-a-crucial-lesson-87669

https://www.fairplanet.org/story/kenya-water-police-unit-nairobi-capital/

https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/88285-police-launch-crackdown-all-car-wash-dealers-nairobi