NAIROBI: Power cuts, now water taps run dry : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

First power cuts, now water taps run dry in East Africa's largest city 3.07 p.m. ET (1920 GMT) June 21, 2000 By George Mwangi, Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP)  Saluma Ahmed sat cross-legged Wednesday on the grass in front of a snaking line of yellow plastic containers, hoping to see some water trickle into hers from the only functioning water tap for miles.

"I came here at 6 a.m., and now it is 3 p.m. I have been waiting for my turn, yet I am not sure whether I will go home with water,'' Ahmed said. "As you can see, the tap is drying up.''

Still suffering from the effects of 18-hour power cuts four days a week, the 2.1 million citizens of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, now face an acute water shortage that has spread to the central business district. The water shortage has been blamed alternately on drought and government mismanagement and corruption.

Ahmed considers herself lucky, even if she had to walk three miles in the hopes of bringing home some water. The owners of the Ngong race course, fed up with hundreds of people swarming over the grounds to steal water, laid a pipe outside their fence and attached a tap.

"We disturbed them a lot with the water problem, so they decided to let us have water ... because they understand the problem we were having,'' said Naomi Nyambae Kamunyu, an elderly woman who has put herself in charge of the water tap to ensure there are no fights.

Despite the acute water shortage in large sections of Nairobi, in some parts of town water flowed freely, with dozens of car washers doing their jobs with water tapped illegally from a city water main.

Earlier this week, Town Clerk Geoffrey Mate ordered a halt to such informal car washing in the city.

"We do not have anything to do with the water shortage,'' said 19-year-old George Maina as water spurted from the hose he was holding. "The City Council is blaming us for nothing. It is their problem. They should solve it.''

The car washers claim they are paying employees of the City Council for the illegal water hookup.

The Nairobi City Council has a reputation for corruption and mismanagement, and its members have been frequently accused of selling off city property and pocketing the proceeds.

City Hall refused Wednesday to comment on the water situation.

Many in this nation of 29 million blame government corruption and mismanagement for the shortages.

"We are told there is no rain, that is why there is no water,'' said Kamunyu at the race course water tap. "That is not true. It is corruption. How come there is water and electricity all around State House?''

President Daniel arap Moi's official residence is about three miles from Kamunyu's home. Everyone in his neighborhood has water and electricity.

The government blames the water shortage on a three-year-long drought, the worst in three decades.

Kenya's economy, slipping under years of sluggish growth, is expected to decline even further due to the water and power rationing, which is taking a toll on Kenya's struggling industrial sector.

Last month, the Central Bank said the economy grew only 1.2 percent in the past 12 months, down from 1.4 percent the previous year

-- Martin Thompson (, June 21, 2000

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