City taps to remain dry as water cartels call the shots

Robin Obino @obinorobin

Many parts of Nairobi are still reeling under acute water shortage despite levels at Ndakaini Dam, the main reservoir supplying 84 per cent of the city’s water, having risen in the past few weeks.

Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company had before recent rains announced a rationing programme due to the shortage. Several estates received water three times a week and residents bought water from vendors. The rationing that started 15 months ago was to be temporary.

Most parts of the city have not seen a drop of water ever since and the situation is not getting any better.“I don’t remember the last time my tap had water. It must have been December 2016,” said Ruth Ndinda, a resident of Pipeline estate in Embakasi Constituency.

Most residents in this area buy water at between Sh30 and Sh70 per 20 litre container.

“Water is expensive here but it is nowhere to be found. Sometimes we have money but there is no water to buy,” she added. Most people in this area have not seen water for months. Those who are lucky enough to get some, get it for less than 30 minutes every week.

Water vendors sell a 20-litre container of water for between Sh30 and Sh50 with the price going as high as Sh100 in some places during the weekends. The most hit areas include Mathare, Eastleigh, Soweto, Baba Dogo, Kayole, Githurai, Umoja, Pipeline, Dohnholm, Kibera and some parts of Westlands. But why is the situation this way despite levels at Ndakaini Dam having risen to 90 per cent?

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, in April, admitted that the water shortage being experienced in many parts of Nairobi was as a result of sabotage by cartels.

He said that the cartels have disconnected water pipes diverting water to private vendors who sell the basic commodity at a very high price in the areas such as Kayole.

“Investigations reveal that the water shortage being experienced in many parts of Nairobi is as a result of sabotage by water cartels whose days are now numbered,” Sonko said. But who are these cartels? Sources have intimated to People Daily that they are individuals within the city who collude with officials at Nairobi City County headquarters to intentionally switch off the taps-create a crisis- so that they can make a kill and then share the proceeds.

“Water is gold in this city. It is a business that is turning people into overnight billionaires. Do you know that the water cartels in this city make between Sh20 million and Sh50 million every single day?” said a source at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. According to the source, 60 per cent of the water cartels in Nairobi own their own boreholes. To rule the city, they often engineer water shortage across in collusion with some unscrupulous employees so that they can sell their own water at any price they want.

 “Water business in this city is not for the small fish. It is for the Tilapia. We the small fish have nothing to do but obey orders. People receive up to Sh1 million weekly just to keep the taps dry,” said the source. Auditor General Edward Ouko, in his 2016/17 report on the financial statements of the water company, indicated it lost Sh1 billion to illegal water connections and leakages.

The source went on to say that 40 per cent of water cartels in Nairobi don’t own any borehole but have literally taken over Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. In other words, they take the water which is supposed to be distributed to Nairobians, fill their tracks and sell at their own price.

“They are powerful individuals with good connections. The same way people are becoming millionaires through the garbage industry is this city, so is water,” said the source.

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