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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid