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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora