The Freshwater Conservation and Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Integration Community of Practice meeting took place at the Four Points Hotel in Nairobi on February 25, 2020. Convened by the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET) and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), the meeting attracted participants both from the public and private sectors as well as university students. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), being a member of ABCG, was also in attendance. The meeting covered rapid urbanization, infrastructure development, and water conservation in Kenya. As Africa changes, it is essential that healthy ecosystems are included in development plans. There is a need to negotiate space for conservation as well. It helps to identify threats and solutions around access to water to eventually improve efficiency, collaboration, and impact. Water security is indispensable in sustainable growth as well as in development.
“ABCG, through its thematic working group, initiated this practice to bring together stakeholders working in conservation, development, and WASH sectors to learn and exchange practical experiences and resources as well as to address pertinent issues,” said Evelyn Namvua, ABCG Communication and Engagement Specialist.
The expected outcome of the Freshwater Conservation and Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) Integration Community of Practice meeting was to identify solutions for efficient water supply and sanitation in Nairobi and surrounding counties and to facilitate emerging best practices. Participants aimed to identify working strategies for water resource management as well as to create awareness around their key challenges and major threats.
At the meeting, discussions revolved around the protection of freshwater ecosystems in the face of rapid urbanization. Inasmuch as Kenya is developing, there is a need to have strong and effective water governance and urban planning that mediates urban water demand and supply, as well as environmental issues. Development actors have an important role to play when it comes to supporting sustainable development that ensures the integrity of freshwater resources. They have to ensure that there is physical planning in water resource management, urbanization, and infrastructure development.
“As the national government is budgeting for water resource management, it is important that county governments also plug in and include it in their budget plans. Banks can also fund some of the infrastructure. However, all these revolve around sustainable governance,” said Martin Mulongo, the Water and Sanitation Specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
United Nations-Habitat estimates that by 2030, the urban population in Africa will double. Therefore, the meeting sought to find a balance between the provision of clean water and the protection of Kenya’s water catchment areas while promoting urbanization without any compromising the other. Across the continent, key water catchment areas are facing severe degradation due to land-use changes, poorly planned infrastructure, urbanization, and population growth.
Urbanization brings about not only a national but also a positive global change. It facilitates the growth of hubs for innovation, creativity, and growth. Additionally, it accounts for 85 percent of global Gross Domestic Product. With the proper development of urban infrastructure, national and regional Sustainable Development Goals can easily be attained.