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6th International Conference on Rainwater Catchmant Systems
"Participation in Rainwater Collection for Low-Income Communities and Sustainable Development"
Nairobi, Kenya - August 1993

Opening Speech

By The Honourable Darius M. Mbela, ECH, MP
Minister for Land Reclamation. Regional and Water Development,

Mr. Chairman, Representatives of Foreign Missions, Heads and Representatives of UN Bodies and Donor Agencies, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, Distinguished Guests. Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you ail to the 6th "International Conference on Rainwater Catchment Systems.

I sincerely hope that those of you visiting Kenya will find us sufficiently hospitable to enable you to participate in this conference with efficacy.

Mr Chairman, I am informed that participants at this important conference are drawn from more than 40 countries and that it is the first time that the conference has been held in Africa. I see this as a great honour for our country and our continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you arc all aware that 1981 - 1990 was designated the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade by the United Nations, whose objectives were to provide potable water and adequate sanitation for all.

Towards that end increased governmental and donor community investments have been made. However, despite those endeavours the objectives remain unconsummated. Rainwater harvesting becomes important in that, other than meeting the objectives of the drinking water supply and sanitation decade, it is an activity that can be implemented from household to institution level with equal degrees of satisfaction. Research has established that the quality of rainwater, depending on geographical zones, is quite acceptable both for domestic and industrial needs. Moreover, rainwater relative to other sources of water, is an option which is available free and could be harnessed for the benefit of everybody at a nominal cost. In light of the foregoing, 1 find the conference and its theme appropriate.

Mr Chairman, the relevance of the conference to Kenya cannot be over-emphasized, Kenya has about 27 districts which are categorized as arid or semi-arid. These are the districts that suffer the most from drought conditions, yet are the same ones devastated by floods during the short spells when they are blessed with rainfall. It is a shame that this very vital resource should go to waste in areas where it is most needed.

Our arid districts constitute about 87% of the Kenyan land, are inhabited by approximately 21% of the total Kenyan population and support over 50% of the livestock herds in the country. This scenario implies that 80% of Kenya's population is concentrated in the Jess than 20% of high-potential areas, which have reached saturation levels.

We find ourselves with no alternative, therefore, other than to make our arid and semi-arid lands habitable and productive, and the only way is to provide water in sufficient quantities and of acceptable quality to those areas. Rainwater harvesting becomes part of our wider strategy to halt the rural-urban population drift, as well as a vehicle for higher economic productivity.

We have to boost the agricultural and industrial potential of these areas so as to relieve the immense population pressure currently witnessed in our minuscule fertile lands.

Mr Chairman, the Government of Kenya has a variety of measures in place to try and reclaim arid and semi-arid lands. These measures are manifest in the creation of my Ministry, with the purpose of raising the socio-economic potential of those lands through the provision of water resources. To reclaim these arid and semi-arid lands my Ministry regards rainwater harvesting as the sine qua non. It is in that light that I find this conference very appropriate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, what I have already said should not delude anyone into thinking that rainwater harvesting should be restricted to arid and semi-arid areas only. Rainwater harvesting is useful in every area, including those with sufficient water and rainfall.

While ensuring that rainwater does not go to waste, its harvesting also ensures that it does not become a nuisance or a hazard. In urban areas surface runoff has unleashed havoc on the urban infrastructure and been me ruination of property and human life.

This conference has brought together experts, practitioners and researchers in the fields of engineering, hydrology, architecture, building, agriculture and economics, all with the aim of snaring knowledge and experience in the field of rainwater catchment systems technology. I am optimistic that from your deliberations some useful ideas, realistic strategies and implementable recommendations will emerge.
The conference should be wary of the "conference bandwagon" effect, where it is all talk and nothing tactile emerges from it. I request, therefore, that you do at least three things:

  1. Ensure that recommendations from this conference are practicable, palatable and catalytic to policy. 
  2. That the recommendations are environmentally sustainable. 
  3. That the recommendations of the conference should first and foremost take account of the
    needs of those least privileged in our society.

Mr Chairman, my remaining remarks are reserved for ail those who have in one way or another contributed to make this conference a reality. In that regard, my first thanks go to the pioneers of this conference. Also, I wish to thank the 6th Conference Organizing Committee, the University of Nairobi for their splendid efforts in organizing mis conference and for hosting it I wish to thank the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Habitat, UNICEF, the World Bank and others for funding this conference.

With these remarks, and with great honour and pleasure, I now declare the International Conference on Rainwater Catchment Systems officially opened.

Thank you


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