The past teaches the future in water supply managementEzekiel Nyangeri Nyanchaga, Associate Professor at the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, University of Nairobi, Kenya, has been visiting Tampere for a month. This time, the TUT graduate is in Finland due to his recently published book ‘Water Supply and Governance in Kenya’.
Ezekiel ‘Eki’ Nyangeri, a TUT graduate and a regular Finland-goer, has embarked on several research projects, accumulated an impressive list of publications, worked for consultant companies and taught civil engineering. His latest publication, History of Water Supply and Governance in Kenya, is an extensive overview of water management in Kenya within a period of over a century.
Writing and gathering materials for the book took roughly 15 years. Nyangeri got the first spark for his book in the late 1990s from his Finnish colleague at TUT, Tapio S. Katko, who had at the time written a book on the history of Finnish water supply and sanitation in English.
“I realised that there was a definite demand for a similar book about water supply in Kenya,” Nyangeri reminisces.
Writing the book proved to be highly revealing. For example, some of the previously issued recommendations for water supply and governance had never been implemented. People had forgotten about the history and they were about to reinvent the wheel.
“Some of the fears that people have also proved unfounded on historical grounds. Local people felt threatened by the privatization of water services, but the phenomenon was actually nothing new: similar developments had taken place eighty years earlier. The water-sector services were found too fragmented in the 1990s, but again, similar objections had been raised as early as the 1950s,” Nyangeri notes.
Knowing the history helps
The book contains a lot of useful information for water-sector institutions, academicians and water management professionals both in the public and private domains. Another important target group are the development partners in the water sector.
“As for ordinary people, it is not always clear how their near-by water supply projects originally came about and who originally established them.This type of historical information is important to do away with unnecessary conflicts and bitterness,” Nyangeri says.
Many improvements have also taken place over the years, however. Many of the policies and processes around Kenya have been streamlined, information dissemination among the general public has improved, and the decision-makers are now more directly answerable to the general public. The new Kenyan Constitution of 2010 has given rights to the citizens to demand for potable water and sanitation services from the water services providers. The Water Services Regulatory Board oversees the implementation of the policies and operations of water service providers and documents their performance in their annual performance impact publications.
Natural continuum to sanitation and water pollution
Over the years, Nyangeri has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge on water management, water supply, sanitation and sewage systems as well as water pollution and its environmental impacts. His next major endeavour is a historical book on sanitation and water pollution in Kenya, again extending over a period of a century.
“One of the most interesting aspects about this next project is gathering information on water pollution from municipal effluent discharges and on the industries that have the most room for improvement. Kenya is a country with a lot of agro-based industries in the rural areas such as coffee factories, sugar cane processing, sisal processing, dairy industries, and tea factories, and their current level of wastewater treatment is rather poor. The quality of water in different parts of Kenya also varies to a great extent. These are some of the perspectives I intend to address. If everything goes according to plan, the book will come out in 3–5 years,” Nyangeri says.
A long-standing Finland enthusiast
Nyangeri’s history with Finland dates back to the mid-1980s when he started his Master’s studies at TUT, followed later by doctoral degree from TUT in 1998. Between then and now, he has visited Finland several times in various contexts and also accumulated an extensive network. He has seen the Hervanta area develop from a sparsely-populated periphery into a bustling suburb. In the late 1980s, the TUT campus consisted of two buildings: Konetalo and Sähkötalo. During his later visits, he has seen the other campus buildings emerge one after the other, and other untapped land in Hervanta being turned into apartment buildings and harnessed into commercial use.
The only problem with Nyangeri’s visits to Finland nowadays is how to find enough time to meet with all his Finnish friends and colleagues.
The book ‘History of Water Supply and Governance in Kenya (1895-2005) Lessons and Futures’ is available online at : http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0060-9
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