June 5th was World Environment Day – which is not to be confused with World Water Day which was on March 22nd. I, for some reason, was thinking a lot about water yesterday. It is after all part of the environment so my thoughts were justified on that level. Every other day seems to be “X Day” no? Many of these are intricately interrelated and I wonder why they separate them. Take water and the environment for example, can we really talk about one without mentioning the other? But I digress…back to water.
I believe that water is life and everyone should have access to it.
Where I come from, water shortages are the norm. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have storage containers filled with water around the house. In fact, there were brief periods when anything in the house that could hold water had water in it – cooking pots, rehabilitated juice and soda bottles, and rarely used vases among others. We were constantly prepared for water deprivation or rather water rationing, as the powers that be like to call it. There were several occasions when the rationing lasted so long that we ended up using all the water that we had stored. We had to buy water from Kyalo, the water vendor, whose side hustle was selling vegetables at the local market. Those were also the times that I cried because we didn’t have water.
Yes, there were times when I cried because there was no water. I cried partly because I was sad and partly because I was angry. Why sad? Well, think of the number of things that you cannot do without water – cooking, quenching your thirst, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, washing dishes and clothes, and flushing the toilet, to name a few. Lack of water makes it difficult for one to carry out basic activities. Who wants to live in such a reality? Every time I turned on the tap, and heard that sound that I can only describe as choking, followed by the three or four teasing water drops, I felt sad. Why angry? Angry because I knew that the dry tap was more often than not a result of corruption, mismanagement of funds, poor policies, shoddy planning, lack of leadership and general questionable development strategies. Moreover, there were neighborhoods that rarely experienced this rationing because they were inhabited by the wealthy, movers and shakers and “leaders.” Clearly there are those whose water needs and rights are prioritized over others.
Our situation was not unique and neither was it the worst. There are many people in Kenya who have to walk for record-breaking distances just to get water. What I don’t understand, to this day, is why our leaders do not make “having access to clean water” a priority. Yes, they have explicitly shown us that they are more driven by their unquenchable thirst for wealth and hunger for all things luxurious. But are they really blind to the thirst for water that their constituents, domestic workers or even relatives back in their villages have? Don’t they ever wonder, for example, how their grandparents’ friends are able to cook and clean in areas that have chronic water shortages? When they drive by their constituents exhausted and carrying water on their head, does it ever cross their mind that this is a situation that they can rectify?
Water is such a basic necessity that no one should be deprived of it regardless of their geographical location, financial background or which politician they happen to be well-acquainted with. Our leaders are truly failing us in this regard. Water access, quality, efficiency and sustainability need to get on their agenda. Maybe if they spent a day without water that would shift their perspective and priorities. Leaders, water is life, I say. You doubt? About 70 percent of the human body is made of water – do you need any more evidence!? Here’s to access to clean water for all.