Thousands of Kitui South residents are at the risk of contracting waterborne diseases for using water from an untreated underground source in a quarry at Kanzoa.
But for the residents who jostle for the water ignorant of the health risk involved, the presence of the water is a miracle considering it was found in the midst of huge boulders in the drought prone region; where they had never expected to find a drop of water all their lives.
The happy lot has been fetching water from the abandoned quarry at no cost since January this year, when the Sinohydro Corporation Ltd Company left the site open after they stumbled on the precious resource seeping from rock crevices as they excavated ballast for road construction.
Speaking on Tuesday at the abandoned quarry, a resident Syokau Muange said the Chinese contractors building the Kibwezi-Kitui road had unintentionally come to the rescue of the residents.
“This water source is not protected. We step into the water barefoot. The water is contaminated. We know we risk contracting waterborne diseases if urgent public health measures are not put into place to secure this resource,” lamented Syokau.
Despite the hiccups, the water source serves residents of over 20 km radius who have found the free water as a source of revenue to improve their livelihoods, support families, put food on the table and educate their children.
“I fetch this water to go and sell in Mutomo Town, the little that I make from the venture I use it to buy food and take care of my disabled child,” said Syokau as she fights back tears.
She called on both the National and County governments to come up with a strategic plan to ensure the resource is protected and conserved to serve the residents who have been walking for kilometres daily in search of the precious commodity.
“If a project is initiated and developed, this water will benefit us immensely. The most vulnerable group that is tasked with searching for water is women and children. We shall rest our backs and venture into other profitable income generating activities to support our families,” said Syokau.
Another resident, Mumo Musyoka said that the water levels are depleting fast due to the prolonged dry spell and the sheer numbers that flock the quarry on a daily basis.
“Loads of water jerricans are picked every day. People come with donkeys, motorcycles, human and animal drawn carts and tractors to fetch water for both domestic and commercial purposes,” said Musyoka.
He said that initially he used to go for water at Kitoo borehole which is over 10 kilometres from Kanzoa, adding that he now does a half the distance to the water point in the quarry.
“The Kitoo water point is overstretched now. Sometimes it pumps hot air during the dry season or simply breaks down to cool off. This water here is assured daily. We need help to expand its use and treat it,” said Musyoka.
By Yobesh Onwong’a