By  T.W Mwangi – Registered Physical Planner

One of the effects of climate change is unreliability of climate and weather patterns. In the recent past rainfall patterns have been erratic, resulting in water shortages. Agriculture, industrial and domestic water supply were affected . Water vending business has boomed but at what cost to public health?

As a country we must put in place mitigating measures that will enhance resilience in the water sector. World Bank ( 2014) defined resilience as  “ the ability of a system, entity or community to adopt to a variety of changing conditions and withstand shocks while maintaining its essential  functions .’’  Development control is a valuable tool in management of human settlements which includes ensuring provision of clean water and capacity to l withstand shocks of a water deficit when evapotranspiration rates exceed precipitation.

Section 104  of  the County Governments  Act , 2012  mandates  county governments  to designate  county departments, cities  and  urban areas, sub counties  and  wards  as  planning authorities of  the county. Planning authorities are entities that prepare, approve and enforce physical development plans. One of the end results of planning is establishment of human settlements which are healthy, aesthetically appealing, efficient in utilization of space, characterized by harmony in interaction of activities and sustainable.

Development control is the process of managing or regulating the carrying out of any works on land or making of any material change in the use of land or structures. It ensures that development complies not only with approved spatial development plans but also with relevant policy guidelines, regulations and standards. County governments effect development control through approval of building plans, subdivision schemes, extension and renewal of leases, change and extension of use.  Prof C.S Ola, an authority in Planning Law pronounced himself thus, ‘As a road is to a motor vehicle and salt to food, so is development control to a development plan.” In addition, it is valuable tool in the management of human settlements. One of the aspects of human settlement that development control maybe useful in is management of water.

 The water shortage experienced cannot be entirely attributed to the inadequate rainfall received. One of the main factors could be failure to harvest the rain water during the rainy seasons. Had county governments provided within their laws that building plans incorporate   water harvesting and storage facilities, the country would have benefited in several ways. First, domestic water shortages would be militated against. Second, problems associated with storm water runoff would be addressed. Third, incidences of water borne diseases would decline.

The formula V (m3) = P (m2)*(RC) can be used to estimate the amount of rain water harvest. Where V= Volume of water harvested in cubic meters, P= Mean annual rainfall in meters and RC = runoff coefficient to account for losses due to shape of the roof, collection efficiency and the wind drifting away water. RC ranges from 0.5 to 0.7.

Take for example, Mr.Kiema and his family of five who reside in Mulango Ward Kitui County. The area receives a mean annual rainfall of 500mm (0.5m). His homestead has a total roof area of 100 square meters. He does not harvest rain water and relies on community water supply which is unreliable. Applying  the  above  formula Mr. Kiema  may from his  homestead  harvest  -100m2 *0.5m* 0.6 = 30m3 = 30,000 liters  per  year!

There has never been and there will never arise a person as wise as King Solomon. In the Book of Ecclesiastes he penned the following words “to everything there is a season.” As sure as the fall of dusk and crack of dawn wet and dry seasons are expected.

We can ameliorate effects of drought through development control. In   its Final Report,  The Committee of Experts on Constitutional  Review had this to say “ Law  is  after all the product of  the realization that man is  inherently  ………. disorderly if left to his  devices . Law seeks to create order in society so that competing human interests do not lead to mutual annihilation which destroys the society itself.”  With this wise counsel as a backdrop the  time  and  opportunity has arrived  for  county governments  to legislate  that before approval, building plans should be   circulated to relevant water offices for rigorous  scrutiny of water harvesting and storage capacity of proposed buildings. Such simple and commonsensical policy and legislative interventions are what we expect from county governments.