For the past two decades, Kenya has reported tremendous population growth. In 2003, Kenya had a population of about 34 million people. In 2020, the population has surpassed the 50 million mark, according to the United Nations Estimates.
That equates to over 16 million people in fifteen years. The country has a total area of 582,646km2, out of which 581,671km2 constitutes land surface, and only 11,230 square kilometers equivalent to about 1.9% of the total surface area is covered with water. Based on the above statistics, we have a population density of about 87 persons per square kilometer, out of which 26% live in urban centers, which has increased competition for the available water resources. (Data outsourced from the Worldometers an Elaboration of data by United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2018)
An increase in population and urbanization has resulted in increased demand for potable water, increasing the abstraction of both surface and groundwater to support agricultural practices to meet food demands for the increasing population. Besides, shifting from rain-fed agriculture to irrigated agriculture has also increased agricultural water consumption resulting in increased stress to the already stressed water resources. Water resources management has led to the realization of several milestones. The first fully-fledged ministry for water and development was established in the year 1974. The ministry's first agenda was to take over the management and control of all water-related activities from both the central government, self-help groups, and local governments. In the late 1970s, the ministry's water-related responsibilities were overwhelming, and it was all signal clear that more reforms were needed in the sector.
The most significant reforms in Kenya within the water sector that have aided the management were born in the late 1990s. In 1999, a sessional paper under the title "National Policy on Water Resources Management and Development" was published, which saw the birth of the many reforms the water sector has experienced since then. Currently, almost two decades down the line, and despite the efforts channeled towards water management, the resource's future is still uncertain. Regardless of the effort, we still face similar challenges but on a larger scale, making the situation even worse.
As a result, there are several questions we need to ask ourselves.
- Who is responsible for the pollution?
- What can we do to solve these problems?
- When do we address all these challenges?
Should we wait until all rivers dry up? or all the aquifers are depleted? or all the aquatic ecosystem is lost? The answer is NO. We still have a chance; it is possible to address all these issues and reverse the situation; we can increase our total surface being covered with water.
Most of the problems facing these resources are directly or indirectly human-driven. Only through our actions can we administer the healing dose to nature and redeem what has been lost. When we place ourselves in the shoes of nature, we shall act accordingly. We need to ask what are some of the nature-based solutions we can implement on a local, regional, and national scale to address the water challenges we face as a country?
The most significant challenges affecting our water resources include; pollution, over-abstraction, degradation of watersheds, poor agricultural practices, and lack of capacity building. These might be termed as the giants slowly depleting our water resources, and if nothing is done, in the next 50 years, we might not have the capacity to meet half the total water demand.
Finally, personal responsibility is the key to replenishing what has been lost. As citizens, we need to take the initiatives and plant trees, take care of the local watersheds, minimize pollution, and exercise high personal hygiene levels. With such, we shall achieve more significant results within a short period.