NAIROBI: Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 6 addresses availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. As we observe the World Water Day today, it is important to focus our attention on the strides we have made in relation to water sustainability and the ways in which we have fallen short…
According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, close to 56 per cent of Kenyans rely on underground water mainly collected from wells and boreholes. Data from scientific research indicate that majority of the underground water sources in Kenya contain fluoride levels above the World Health Organisation limit of 1.5 milligrams per litre.
Furthermore, upon consumption of water with high fluoride levels, the fluoride gets attracted to calcium in the bones and teeth and forms irreversible damage; conditions known as skeletal and dental fluorosis respectively.
Dental fluorosis is an irreversible condition that stains the teeth brown, leading to self-confidence issues and restricting the potential career opportunities the affected can access. The only way to remedy it is through cosmetic surgery such as veneers which are expensive and out of reach for most Kenyans.
Other than the aesthetic aspect, excessive fluoride consumption affects the bones, causing skeletal fluorosis which has the potential to cause bone deformation and incapacitation.
In a bid to counter these effects, Kenyans especially in the urban areas turn to bottled water for human consumption. In addition to fluoride content we, unlike in developed countries, do not trust our tap water enough to drink it without treating it.
Now more Kenyans are turning to either branded varieties or the filling stations located in malls and supermarkets, as these give the guarantee of protection from pathogens. Store bought water therefore becomes more of a necessity than a luxury.
However, our taxation system treats water differently. Excise tax, levied on such ‘sin’ goods as alcohol and cigarettes, is also levied on water, completely ignoring the fact that purchasing bottled water is not an alternative, but the only viable option for those who choose not to consume excessive fluoride or water from potentially contaminated sources.
Our progress towards making safe water accessible for citizens still has a long way to go and all players, especially the State, need to treat it with the seriousness it warrants.