Let’s fix wastewater issue for cleaner tomorrow

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/File

With manufacturing one of the pillars of the President’s Big Four agenda, the country is likely to see accelerated establishment of new industrial facilities over the coming years. 

As a result, an increase in the volume of industrial wastewater is expected. According to a World Bank report released recently, poor water quality in heavily-polluted areas has been found to limit economic growth, underlining the inextricable link between protecting our nation’s water resources and promoting growth. 

Kenya is already a water-scarce country, with 416 cubic metre of internal renewable water per capita per year, against a global benchmark of 1,000 cubic metre per capita.

When untreated effluent is released directly back into the environment, it not only contaminates other water sources, but also further diminishes the availability of the little fresh and safe water available.

So what can be done to address this dual crisis of water scarcity and pollution?

The first step is to break down the institutional and sectoral silos that have so often hindered progress on managing such shared resource challenges. Industries face many challenges when it comes to complying with all the statutory requirements of the various regulations they operate under.

Most industries understand the need for these regulations and do their best to comply. However, in some circumstances, there are challenges in compliance or, in some cases, companies are not in a position to immediately invest in the interventions needed for compliance. 

A pragmatic way forward out of this stalemate is to maintain dialogue between the regulators, industry and other stakeholders and collaborate towards a coordinated effort to achieve compliance.

The second step would be to redress the market structures that skew incentives towards excessive water-waste generation, pollution, and water-use inefficiency by making it more attractive to use water efficiently.

Water in Kenya remains largely undervalued. The current nominal price of water does not reflect the true cost of production, nor does it account for the environmental or social externalities resulting from activities related to its abstraction, transportation, usage and discharge.

Promoting circular economy approaches can help industries to use the water at their disposal efficiently. 

Several firms are already taking steps to upgrade their production facilities in line with circular economy and environmental sustainability targets by building on-site wastewater treatment facilities, incorporating water recovery processes into production, and adopting green building strategies. 

Such activities can also be accompanied by initiatives that help to protect and rehabilitate critical catchments. Businesses are increasingly acknowledging the fact that they have a stake in ensuring not only the sustainability of their own practices, but also the efficacy of water management in the areas where they operate. 

Two weeks ago, the Water ministry in collaboration with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, supported by the 2030 Water Resources Group hosted a National consultative forum on industrial effluent Management.

The event brought together industry players and relevant stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society, to collectively develop policy solutions as well as technical and financing solutions to achieve compliance with existing regulations, water conservation, and pollution prevention.

Such collaborative approaches are imperative to finding long-term sustainable solutions.

Water is a shared resource and protecting it should be a shared responsibility. 

The Writer is the CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers—[email protected].

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