Nairobi — The huge investment required to rehabilitate sewerage management infrastructure in the coast region may not come as soon as hoped, unless private investors venture into the sector, say experts.
They say that the low capacity in the country to convert waste into an economic gain has made financiers shy away from injecting cash into the sewage management sector, despite its potential.
Mr Maro Andy Tola, the Coast Water Services Board (CWSB) acting chief executive officer, said sewage management requires very huge investments which without converting into an economic activity, is hard to acquire, since raw sewer has a very poor rate of return that cannot attract financiers.
“We shall require major participation by the private sector who should invest in ways of converting sewage into economic activities to give the sector a high rate of return,” Mr Tola said. The Coast Water Board for instance requires over Sh2 billion to rehabilitate its sewage infrastructure.
Currently, the infrastructure is owned by the Municipal Council of Mombasa and is leased to CWSB at a fee that is supposed to be used to develop infrastructure now over 50 years old and prone to frequent breakdown. Sewer pipes in the Coast region have major leaks that discharge raw sewer into the ocean, which has subsequently affected growth of mangrove trees and annihilated crucial marine life.
This has put CWSB and the Mombasa Water Services Company in the bad books of the environment regulator, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). Last Friday, after touring dilapidated sewerage infrastructure, provincial director of environment Mr Isaiah Kyengo said the authority would sue the two companies for neglecting treatment plants which had resulted in the discharge of pollutants into the Indian Ocean.
NEMA had given the board a notice – which was issued last year and expired two weeks ago – to repair several pumping sites but nothing had been done, he said. However, rehabilitating the dilapidated sewerage infrastructure is proving a headache for the CWSB, which although it has procured Sh7 billion from donors, will only have Sh220 million channelled to the sewage project, while the rest will go to water infrastructure, also a major problem in the region.
The World Bank and French Development Agency will provide the fund, which will also be used to rehabilitate Baricho Water Works, Mzima Springs, Marere and Tiwi Borehole – the four main sources of water for Mombasa and its environs. The Sh220 million for sewerage will be used to rehabilitate Kipevu sewage treatment plant, which has not been in use for several years now as a result of sewer pipes breakdown.
Kipevu, Mr Tola said, is supposed to process raw sewage and rehabilitation works are expected to start in April this year. “The contactor for the project has already been identified and we are in the process of procuring a supervisory consultant,” Mr Tola said, adding that the project will be completed after one year.
Lack of space
Due to lack of space at Kizingo treatment plant, the board plans to spend Sh400 million for the development of a pumping station at the site. “Land is very expensive here, since it is within the island and with this station, we will be able to pump sewage to Kipevu for treatment,” said Mr Tola.
The other problem some of the water companies in the region face is that they are not attractive to financial lenders for infrastructure development because they are not economically viable units. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation has proposed to merge the seven water companies into two to make them viable.
Source: Gitonga Marete and Githua Kihara, The Nation / allAfrica.com, 4 April 2010