Water shortages set to threaten tourism growth


Warnings over a water deficit of some 65 percent were looming large when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water admitted at a function in Malindi district a few days ago, when opening a refurbished water station at Baricho. After the improvements at the pumping station and water works over one million people will be able to have more reliable access to safe water from the Coast Water Services Board but growing demand would still leave only 35 percent of the coast population with access to piped water. The PS admitted that industrial growth, new hotels and more residential areas outstripped the increased supply, which comes to the Kenya coast via the Mzima Springs pipeline and the Baricho water works.

The warning by the PS has rattled some stakeholders in the hospitality and services industry, already suffering a stretched water supply from the South Coast of Mombasa in Ukunda and Tiwi over the North Coast of Nyali, Bamburi and along the coast to Kilifi and Malindi.

When you hear that you wonder how more resorts will get the amounts of fresh water they need. If tourism is to expand, if the new conference centre is to come, water, electricity, sewerage services and road access will be crucial. The president will very soon lay the foundation stone for the new port in Lamu. Vision 2030 sees an entire resort city to spring up there. The question is, like here in Mombasa, where will the water come from, where will the sewage be treated instead of flushing it into the ocean at night. I hope that the planner have made such infrastructure works a priority to avoid new facilities coming on line and there is not enough water or electricity lines have not reached’.

(Impression of the new ‘super highway’ from Nairobi to Thika where 3 lanes in each direction have greatly eased traffic jams and reduced accidents)

Many coast tourism stakeholders have in the past complained about the alleged neglect they suffered as Nairobi, the capital, was undergoing a major transformation in recent years with the new super highway to Thika and a widened highway via Athi River to the Tanzanian border at Namanga and on to Arusha. ‘Around Nairobi the Northern Bypass is ready, the Southern Bypass under construction, new link roads have opened up, the highway to Namanga and Arusha been opened and the same to Thika. We at the coast still have no easy road access from the Nairobi highway to the South Coast, that road is in very bad shape, the new bypass is way off from being built, the crossing into Mombasa at Changamwe is only ever patched up, so yes, we are complaining. Government cannot say they support tourism and then not provide water, electricity, sewerage connections and roads. The new government must prove itself to give equal resources to the coast as they were handing down for projects around Nairobi. What happened there is great but it needs repeating here at the coast too. We need that new highway connecting Mombasa to Lunga Lunga and then on via Tanga to Dar es Salaam. Only then can East Africa finally live up to its potential and the coastal strip be fully exploited for tourism and leisure developments’.

Adds this correspondent the section into and out of Mombasa to the Nairobi highway, often halting traffic in hour long gridlocks, the bottle neck of the Likoni Ferry, which is constantly in the bad press over ferry failures and periodic accidents but also the need for a second bridge connecting the island of Mombasa with the northern mainland to reduce the often long traffic pile up during rush hours. Indeed the new government will be faced with a great many challenges to meet the country’s Vision 2030 and transform the lives of Kenyans to the better. Watch this space.