There was that children’s story where the sun and the wind decide to settle an argument on who was stronger than the other and could do so by torturing an ordinary man walking on the street. The wind, blowing hot and cold literally, argued that it could compel a man to take off his coat by blowing so hard.
However, instead of letting go, the man only held onto to his garments as tight as possible as the wind blew so hard that he had to walk in italics. The sun easily won the bet by unleashing nearly fatal temperatures that saw the man disrobe himself without a fight. I am starting to believe that this kind of debate is back again. This being January the heat starts from the pockets even before it gets to other parts of the body.
Many people in Kigali and Kampala for example have been complaining about the torture from the sun with the heat staying around even during the night. Unlike the children’s story above, we cannot get rid of all our clothes especially when fashion to us means dressing like people in the cooler countries. We therefore end up spending more money to buy cold bottled drinking water and installing air conditioning systems in our offices.
Since not everyone can afford this luxury, sometimes all you need to cool down a little is to walk into an ATM booth that has air-conditioning or into a banking hall and sit there for a while then walk out without completing any transaction, after all it is “Jan-worry” and money is scarce. Yes to survive in the city means being street smart.
Others to whom life has been much more generous will worry about things like the scarcity of water for things like washing their cars and watering their gardens. It is common for water utility companies to advise city dwellers to use water sparingly and therefore avoid wasting it on watering gardens and washing cars.
In Kenya, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company ordered all car wash service operators who use treated piped water to immediately cease their operations as the city tries to cope with a water shortage. Interestingly, one of Kenya’s leading online news platforms reported this story with the headline, “Agony for motorists as car wash businesses shut.” As my Twitter friends like to say, what a wow?
During the dry season, Kigali faces water shortages that are quite rampant that the utility firm doesn’t even need to make any announcements about it. We all know the drill by now. The scarcity also means that some profit from it by ferrying water in jerrycans and selling to those who badly need it. Others with trucks that have water tanks also cash in by supplying those with bigger capacity to store water like hotels and some schools.
In all this, my question has always been why in this age we still can’t fix something as basic as water supply without having to use drought or the dry season as a scapegoat every year? Even Nairobi that loves to remind us all how it is an economic giant in the region still struggles to reliably get water to its people. In fact here you even have tycoons who have made their wealth off the water crises that never seem to end.
The reason why all this is puzzling to me is that East Africa is part of what political analysts often refer to as the Great Lakes region. Those in the tourism industry will not tire from reminding anyone about the lakes with fresh water that dot these countries. I am talking about lakes like Victoria, Muhazi, Tanganyika, Kivu, Albert, Naivasha, Rukwa, Kyoga, Nakuru, Turkana, Baringo, Malawi, Natron, Mugesera, and many others. Do not forget the mighty River Nile.
In other words we are blessed with all these fresh water bodies and we continue to struggle to get water from them to our homes. We continue to use predictable weather patterns as part of the blame game for our engineering inefficiencies year after year. Is this not a clear indictment on our education systems and development agenda?
While nature has blessed us with these resources, our incompetence allows the same nature to bully us each and every time. Maybe the Chinese will help us here once they are done with the roads and bridges. We connect with the world via the internet but empty taps continue to humble us. Sad.