The Kwale county government has accused the Coast Water Services Board (CWSB) for defying a national government directive to abstain from arbitrary water disconnections in the Coast region due to an outstanding s.2billion owed to the board by six counties in the region.
This comes in the wake of an acute water shortage after the board shut down the main water supply lines in the county due an outstanding debt of S40million.
Also affected by the crisis are Mombasa, Kilifi and Taita-Taveta Counties.
While on a Coast tour two months ago, Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa ordered the board to refrain from further random disconnections before an amicable solution is found.
Mr. Wamalwa lashed out at the parastatal for flouting an earlier agreement that required it to put on hold the pending bills which the counties inherited from the defunct local authorities to give room for negotiations with the Transitional Authority.
Now in its second week the water crisis has adversely affected the tourism sector as operations in most hotels and lodges are paralysed as taps remain dry.
There are also fears of an outbreak of water-borne diseases as affected residents are forced to rely on water from contaminated sources besides travelling long distances in search of the rare commodity.
In a statement to the press, the Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya strongly condemned the decision by the board to disconnect the supply on the basis of debts that were accumulated before the county governments came to power.
Mr. Mvurya accused the board of acting in blatant defiance of the government directive saying the disconnection denied local residents the right to water which is unconstitutional.
He said the board’s action was also against the transitional legislation and guidelines noting that there were clear and elaborates guidelines on how transitional liabilities ought to be handled.
“In this scenario, these debts estimated to be approximately S40 million have first to be reviewed and to be confirmed by the Transitional Authority.
The board can thus not bulldoze this county by shutting down the main water pipelines on the pretext of demanding debts,” he added.
Mr. Mvurya said Kwale Water and Sewerage Company has been incurring costs of servicing water pumps and paying electricity bills which is the responsibility of the board but it has failed to do so.
“A keen scrutiny of invoices from the board reveals that the costs incurred by us are never deducted from the water bills,” he said.
He called on the board to restore water with immediate effect and engage the county government if there is anything it feels is not being done in the right manner.
This fresh water crisis that is affecting close to one million people at the Coast comes two months after another one that hit many parts of the region in October 2015 after the parastatal disconnected the supply.
By James Muchai