East Africa 

Let’s get back to work by investing in modern water and sewerage infrastructure

By Simon Thomas, international consultant, and board member of Mega pipes Solutions Limited

As we transition into a new government, the time is ripe to take solid steps towards making good on some of the promises given during the campaign period; particularly urgent is the need to invest in upgrading the water and sewerage infrastructure.

The dilapidated and overstretched water and sewerage infrastructure has resulted in inadequate and insufficient supply of domestic water, which makes living in certain parts of major urban areas a nightmare – water rationing and burst sewers are par for the course, and residents are no longer surprised at these occurrences.

Residents are being forced to budget a percentage of their incomes to buy water from bowsers or other sources at a high cost and further to the financial burden, they have no assurance that this water has been treated and is safe for domestic use.

If we look at Nairobi as an example, the change in zoning laws over the past two decades ushered in high-density developments such as high-rise apartments and commercial offices in many of the city’s suburbs that were previously populated by detached houses.

Areas such as Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Riverside and Lavington were previously characterised as leafy suburbs dotted by separate houses, but today they are home to dense high-rise apartment blocks, offices, hotels, and student hostels. While the population density increased, the water and sewerage investments over the same period did not keep pace, straining this infrastructure.

As the race for the skies continues, we know that our old systems will continue to

receive more pressure, further worsening the current water and sewerage problems the city’s residents are struggling with.

The next national and county governments need to prioritise investments in water and sewerage infrastructure which will have both short and long-term benefits such as a reduction in waterborne diseases including cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.

Investing in this infrastructure would give a much-needed cash injection to multiple industries, as engineers, masons, carpenters, welders, and other labourers would need to be employed during the construction phase of these projects. Further than fixed-term contractors, suppliers of locally sourced building materials would benefit by selling materials to the project contractors.

Additionally, land value would appreciate through the provision of sanitation infrastructure because better housing is often developed in such areas.

Urban planners, across all government levels, must take this further and use modern water and sewerage technology including Weholite HDPE systems that offer them the possibility of rolling out this infrastructure in a timely and sustainable manner.

Weholite HDPE pipes can be customised to fit in as built-up environment, relieving engineers of the challenge that comes with installing infrastructure in highly built-up areas. Disruption to lives and livelihoods is one of the main reasons communities often resist new projects, which is not an issue when using Weholite technology.

Weholite unique design capability has already solved some of the above engineering challenges. For example, in the Donholm area of Nairobi, a major sewer diversion was installed with minimal disruption because the Weholite parts used were customised to fit into very limited spaces. A further advantage is that Weholite also has a 100-year service life when buried.

As the new government settles in, it is a good time to start putting into action the promises that were made around revamping our water and sewerage systems and Weholite technology should

be explored for its potential to roll-out this new infrastructure in a fast and efficient way.

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