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Managing Water Supply in Nairobi

  Apr 7, 2017

Water shortage in Kenya and in many other African countries is not a new phenomenon. Despite the wealth of natural resources in Africa, the continent is the world’s second – driest continent.  In Kenya, 17.3 million people lack access to safe water, with 32.7 million lacking access to improved sanitation.

A public lecture hosted at Strathmore Business School’s Institute of Public Policy and Governance contrasts popular perspectives that water shortage has been mainly because of the harsh climatic conditions.

Convening policy makers, regulators and other relevant stakeholders in Kenya’s water sector, Dr. Tim Lehmann delivered a public lecture on the theoretical and empirical social study of Nairobi’s water infrastructure, highlighting that inefficiencies in water management as the root cause of water shortage in Nairobi.

Dr. Tim Lehmann is a Science and Technology sociologist from the University of Saint Gallen- Switzerland. Professor Robert Mudida, Director Strathmore Institute of Public Policy and Governance and Dr. Tim Lehmann, have also worked on a case study based on the research.

Dr. Lehmann notes that infrastructural complexities causing the poor management of water in Nairobi has been largely driven by the distribution of ethics of care and expertise from designer to user, while encouraging a culture of breakdown and non- linear modernity.

Decisively detailing his research, Dr. Lehmann noted with great emphasis that cultural forces have been significant in influencing the management of water in Nairobi. The influence of political interests, cartels and a highly unstable management structure are some of these cultural factors that continue to paralyze the proper management of the resource.

The lecture highlighted the discrepancy between water harnessed from the reservoirs to that which trickles down to residential areas, an indication that large amounts of water gets “lost” in the process. The research also shows that there are large volumes of paid – for water that is consumed locally. This he points out as one of the loop holes that continues to encourage the flourishing business of water cartels. In a bid to regain control and stability of Nairobi’s water management Dr. Lehmann recommended the use of technoscientific practices. This he defined as the power of technology driven initiatives in shifting cultural norms. He stated that stabilizing water management through technoscientific practices will be effective in improving economic growth, solving engineering inefficiencies, capitalizing on proper use of technology for societal good and in reducing political influence in the matter.

About 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid and more than 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment – meaning that they have less than 1,000 m3 per capita per year. With Africa’s alarming rise in population, it is estimated that the demand for water will only continue to accelerate.

For more information regarding the research, kindly write to Prof. Robert Mudida through

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