Water or health,what first?
22 March 2012, 11:18
Prolonged water shortage exposes Kosovo residents in Mathare slum to health risks. They rush, queue and fetch water from a source they believe is clean.
Grace Mueni, a resident of the area says, “Ni kisima kwa sababu maji yanatoka chini.” (It is a borehole because the water comes from underground). Heaps of hazardous wastes surround this water source thereby exposing harm not only to human health but also to the environment.
According to a resident, George Kadima, the water was mainly used for building purposes but this changed due to the increase in the cost of living. “There is a queue here when there is water shortage in this area. The water is fetched until the source dries up forcing us to wait until it fills up to continue fetching again.” Says Kadima.
The high cost of fuel, especially kerosene which most of the people use, forces them to use the water without boiling. The water is used for bathing, washing clothes and utensils and some even drink. The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, (NCWSC), set up a water kiosk in the area and sell a 20 litre container at KES 2. Some residents say that they only buy drinking water from the kiosk and use the underground water for other chores in their houses since they can not afford to buy 5 to 10 containers per day.
Mr. Evans Wesonga, a water specialist, working with an NGO in the area to provide clean water said that, regardless of the source, hazardous wastes must be disposed of properly, to avoid creating health risks for people and damage the environment. Contamination can be caused in different ways; typically rainfall seeps through the ground, comes in contact with buried waste or other source of contamination, picks up chemicals, and carries them into the ground water. Some pollutants spread quickly, contaminating ground water several miles from the site. If left unchecked, ground water contamination can continue to spread, increasing the cost of future cleanup, reducing useful water resources, and potentially affecting more people.
The difficulty and costs of cleanups are proof that every effort should be made to prevent ground water from becoming contaminated.
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