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Nairobi, a place of calm waters, is running low on water. There is a supply of 505,000 cubic meters against a demand of 760,000 cubic meters. Reports indicate that the problem will persist up to 2026. Climate change, deforestation in significant water catchment areas, among others, have been attributed as the leading causes of the problem. The government has undertaken many initiatives to deal with this problem. They include the construction of the northern water tunnel project and the sinking of boreholes to deal with the water problems.

However, this begs the question: are these projects sustainable given that the encroachment of water sources of these projects? There has been a high rate of deforestation in these water catchment areas, which means that they would soon dry up if water sources do not keep up with the demand. And is there a way we can make sure that these sources can cope with the increasing demand for water? As such, this brings us to the concept of payment for ecosystem service.

What is an ecosystem?

The Collins Dictionary defines an ecosystem as all the plants and animals that live in a particular area, together with the complicated relationship between them and the environment.

What are ecosystem services?

It is the contribution, either direct or indirect, of ecosystems to human well-being. They support our survival and quality of life, such as the control of flooding by forests and water purification.

What is payment for ecosystem services? (PES)

PES occurs when a beneficiary or use of an ecosystem services makes direct or indirect payment to the provider of such services.

people get paid for providing services that are of importance to an ecosystem

Therefore, simplifying all this jargon, it means that people get paid for providing services that are of importance to an ecosystem. Such as paying landowners for planting trees. Other countries have employed PES; they pay landowners either plant trees or promote water purification.

Has PES been employed anywhere else?

To begin with, in Costa Rica, the government pays those who plant and protect trees for carbon fixation, watershed protection, biodiversity conservation, and scenic beauty. The payment takes the form of tax incentives that take the form of a certificate. Those who buy the certificates receive bonds that could be traded and used to pay taxes. The landowner has to plant trees before applying for the certificate. This program has 7,000 beneficiaries. As a result of this initiative, trees have swathed the country green.

In New York, the government developed the watershed agricultural program where farmers would receive pay for water purification in the Catskill Mountains. In this, instead of investing USD 6-8 billion in a water filtration program, the city authorities otherwise invested in proper land use, which cost them USD 1.5 billion. This program works through providing technical assistance to farmers who chose to take part in this program. The council also helps farmers find the potential sources of pollution on the farm and deal with them. As a result of this, New York gets more than 1.1 billion gallons of water daily.

These projects have been a success. They have ensured that there is a clean and healthy environment as well as an adequate supply of water. As noted earlier, the quantity of water is low, and the demand is high. According to the United Nations, 68% of the population will be living in cities by 2050. Due to the population increase, the need for water will soar. As seen in this decade, due to climate change, there have been unpredictable weather patterns. As a result, rains will not help in ensuring sustainable water levels in dams.

Consequently, PES will come in handy in ensuring that there is no water crisis. First, providing incentives for communities that live around water catchment areas to protect them, will make sure that there is an adequate supply of water. Secondly, providing incentives to landowners to plant trees, will go a long way to make sure that Kenya achieves the 10% forest cover. It will also make sure that there is serenity, carbon fixation, among others.

PES will also help in dealing with the Mara River problem. There have been reports that the Mara is drying up, and soon we might not have the wildebeest migration. Well, the Mara situation is a bit complex since it involves allegedly illegal land allocations. Notwithstanding that, giving incentives to communities that dwell in this region to plant trees will make sure that water levels in the Mara retain their earlier glory. Due to this, this wonder will not fade, and Kenya will continue receiving foreign exchange.

if the sources are not well taken care of, we will continue dancing to the tune of lower dam levels and water rationing

The efforts by the County government of Nairobi and the national government are plausible. However, if the sources are not well taken care of, we will continue dancing to the tune of lower dam levels and water rationing, which sucks anyway. By promoting conservation of water catchment areas, will supplement the dams and make sure that there is adequate and clean water.

PES will promote the right to clean and healthy environment, ensure an adequate supply of water, and will give a mechanism for cooperation between the state and its citizens…

The Constitution recognizes every person’s right to a clean and healthy environment.  It also acknowledges the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Moreover, it places an obligation on every person to cooperate with the state and other organs to protect and conserve the environment. PES will promote the right to a clean and healthy environment, ensure an adequate supply of water, and will give a mechanism for cooperation between the state and its citizens in accomplishing the right to a clean and healthy environment.

Anyway, who wants to live in a city where there is no water?

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