News / Africa

Water Discovery Brings Hope to Arid Kenya Region

FILE - An aerial view shows an arid, deserted traditional Turkana village in the northwestern Samburu district of northern Kenya, November 2012.
FILE - An aerial view shows an arid, deserted traditional Turkana village in the northwestern Samburu district of northern Kenya, November 2012.
Hannah McNeish
Satellite technology has revealed that the drought-stricken Turkana region of northern Kenya lies atop two giant underground lakes, or aquifers.  Estimates indicate the finds could solve the barren region's water problems and provide all of Kenya with enough water for the next 70 years.

The government of Kenya and the U.N. agency UNESCO on Wednesday announced huge new water finds in one of the most arid parts of the country.
 
Kenya’s minister of environment, water and natural resources, Judi Wakhungu, said the two aquifers in Turkana -- a northern region long mired in poverty and conflict from a lack of water -- could not only transform the lives of local communities, but also the country.

Local area Chief, Mrs. Elamach, undertakes rapid quality assessment at the test pumping site in Napuu Borehole, Kenya. (© UNESCO/Nairobi Office)Local area Chief, Mrs. Elamach, undertakes rapid quality assessment at the test pumping site in Napuu Borehole, Kenya. (© UNESCO/Nairobi Office)
x
Local area Chief, Mrs. Elamach, undertakes rapid quality assessment at the test pumping site in Napuu Borehole, Kenya. (© UNESCO/Nairobi Office)
Local area Chief, Mrs. Elamach, undertakes rapid quality assessment at the test pumping site in Napuu Borehole, Kenya. (© UNESCO/Nairobi Office)
“What we found in Turkana basin and Lotipiki basin is very exciting because it’s over 200 billion cubic meters of water," she said. "This means that if we use this water sustainably we will have enough water for the next two generations.”
 
Exploration company Radar Technologies International found the underground lakes using satellite technology.
 
RTI’s General Manager Alain Gachet said that the huge estimates could be the tip of the iceberg.
 
“It’s a complex model but we based our estimation only on the superficial, on the first 300 meters," he said. "And the lake is one-and-a-half kilometers deep, maybe completely soaked with water.  So I consider we were very conservative with these reserves, as we considered only the first 300 meters.”

Gachet says the resource could turn pastoralists from beggars embroiled in cross-border water conflicts with South Sudan and Uganda into potential thriving and peaceful communities able to grow their own food.

That would be welcome news to residents of Turkana, where the malnutrition rates can soar as high as 37 percent.

Gachet admits that there could be some environmental damage to the area, but that people came first.
 
“You know, when people are dying of thirst, you don’t think of the environmental impact, besides the fact that you are going to give water to these people and their cattle," he said. "The first impact is positive.  So for sure, better have water than no water.”

Gretchen Kalonji, assistant director-general for natural sciences at UNESCO, which protects areas of scientific and natural interest, also stressed the human need.
 
“It’s an area which as you know is extremely short in water and you know, it witnessed the worst drought in 60 years in 2011, where I think 12 million people ended up displaced, and a large number fo people ended up dying, so that’s important to keep in mind,” she said.

Wakhungu said the find was “historic” as for the first time, the people of Turkana would have clean drinking water.  She said the reserves could completely transform the lives of people there, first through agriculture and then industrial production.
 
“If managed well, it means the notion of drought, the notion of lack of water, is now history for the Turkana people,” she said.
 
Unlike the water in Lake Turkana, which has higher levels of alkaline, the underground water is drinkable, and Wahungu said that local communities would be able to start drinking it within a month.
 
Wakhungu said the search for water will soon go nationwide in the hope that other areas suffering water shortages, such as the Kenyan coast, might soon turn from dustbowls into breadbaskets.
 
“We are so encouraged by this technology that we are now going to roll this out and do a groundwater mapping exercise for the whole country,” she said.
 
In a continent where the fear of “water wars” is strong, Gachet also hopes that his technology can keep the peace.
 
His mantra is “a little water is war, a lot of water is peace, as you can share with neighbors."

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid