Get up, stand up
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CTA. 2001. Get up, stand up. Rural Radio Resource Pack 01/2. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57171
Catherine Gatundu describing how the Forest Action Network is helping communities in Kenya to stand up for their rights to clean, safe water.
Get up, stand up CUE: In Kenya there is a strong legal framework supporting people?s right to water of sufficient quality and quantity. However, many Kenyans do not realise that they have these rights. As a result when a village water supply is threatened, perhaps by an irrigation project upstream, the downstream communities may fail to take advantage of the laws that are there to help them. The Forest Action Network is an NGO working in Kenya, both to educate communities on their rights, and to support government policies designed to protect those rights, for example the need for anyone wishing to build a dam to obtain an official permit. Catherine Gatundu, the head of the network, spoke to Ann Mikia about her organisation?s work. Ann begins by asking whether irrigation projects have led to a shortage of water for domestic use. IN: ?What would you say about irrigation? OUT: ?community there has a right to that water? DUR?N 3?17? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Catherine Gatundu describing how the Forest Action Network is helping communities in Kenya to stand up for their rights to clean, safe water. Transcript Mikia What would you say about irrigation? Do you think irrigation has contributed to a water shortage in the country? Gatundu I wouldn?t say that irrigation would cause any water shortage per se, but what would happen is that in some cases where irrigation is uncontrolled the people upstream will try to dam the rivers denying the people living downstream their source of water from the streams. So the water will not be wasted in that it will still be in the ground but it will not be available to people living downstream. Other times it might also be contaminated with agro-chemicals so that even when it flows downstream it will not be good for human consumption. That?s how irrigation would affect water. Mikia What is the role of your organisation in protecting people who are denied water by selfish irrigators? Gatundu We have one project called Advocacy for Poverty Eradication through Sustainable Natural Resource Management at the Forest Action Network which is the one I?m in charge of. And what we try to do is to make sure that the policies are implemented as they should. Because what we see with the Water Act, there is that permit that someone needs to get in order to dam a river. And the Ministry of Water in this case is able to control the amount of damming that is done on a river system. But when such policies are not followed someone who will just come from nowhere and dam the river and the people downstream will not have access to the water. So if we are able to enforce the policies, which is what we are trying to educate our communities on, what their rights are as far as water conservation is concerned and as far as water access is concerned, as well as their responsibility to make sure that the people downstream do not miss the water. This is what we are trying to enlighten the people on, so that we don?t have these problems of some people denying others water. And also people being able to fight for their rights. Mikia Do you think the poor are being exploited by being denied access to water for basic necessities? Gatundu Yes in a big way, because as it has been said once and again, the poor sometimes are voiceless. And when the rich dam the water even if they go to court to fight it, sometimes the poor people will not be able to follow a case to its logical conclusion. Or they might not even fight for their rights to the water. They will just sit back and say ?OK. We don?t have water, we don?t have water. That?s the thing?. Other times the water is polluted by the rich upstream and the people downstream will be consuming contaminated water and they will think that there is nothing they can do but consume the contaminated water. Whereas there?s a lot of legal basis under which they can fight for the rights to good quality water as well as good amounts of water. Mikia So would you say any Kenyan has the right to water? Gatundu Yes any Kenyan has the right to water. The only limitation we have here is the resource itself. You know there are some places like in the desert where we cannot now start telling the people there that they have to fight over some river which doesn?t exist. But where a river exists it?s protected by the government because even when land is given private titles you realise that the water is protected still by the government. So we can say that everywhere where there is a river, the whole community there has a right to that water. End of tape.
- CTA Rural Radio