Powel adding value in Kenya

Taveta in Kenya has become the first international users of Powel’s water and wastewater solution Gemini VA, owing to a project between Taveta and Norwegian municipality Melhus.

Both a municipality and a town, Taveta is in the south-east of Kenya, close to the Tanzanian border and at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The two municipalities have a long-standing partnership that has already seen several projects and exchanges between schools, kindergartens and the municipality administration. Now, they are cooperating on a large-scale project: the building of a new Taveta town.

Town planning

Taveta has grown rapidly over the last 25 years, and is set for expansion following the purchase of 2,000 acres of land. It is a blank canvas for town planners, who are now drawing on Melhus’ experience when it comes to the infrastructural planning, particularly with water and wastewater.

Vital to the process will be Powel’s Gemini VA solution, which Melhus has used since 1990, and which maps about 95% of their pipes. For three weeks in May, a three-strong delegation from Taveta visited Melhus to learn how to use the software.

Surveyor Benson Mburu, Works Officer Daniel Leshamta and ICT Officer Elijah Baluna Mruttu were very impressed with it and were looking forward to start using it. “The Gemini solution is very powerful,” said Leshamta. “I think it will do even more than we expected.”

Jan Henrik Dahl, environmental officer from the department of development, is the project leader. Him and principal engineer Morten Meek from the department for water and wastewater, has been working closely with the Kenyans.

“Gemini was set up on their computers and we have been showing them how to run and use the program,” says Meek. “For us, this is a chance to work directly with the community”, says Dahl. “It is about capacity building and working together with the local government.”

Mapping the water pipes

The current water system in the old town of Taveta is from 1990, and no accurate maps exist of the water pipes at all. In the decades since the current water system was installed, the population has risen dramatically, but the infrastructure has not developed at the same speed.

Consequently, there are many issues with the water supply. The pump house is not high enough, causing low water pressure, or at times, no water at all. There is also an issue with water pollution.

These problems can easily be avoided with better planned infrastructure and piping. The key to building the new town is strategic planning, to avoid such issues in the future. Environmental development and municipal planning are at the core of this project.

Being an old hand at infrastructural planning, pipe mapping and using Gemini, Meek says, “This gives us a chance to put our knowledge to use in a different way than we normally do.”

For Taveta, the project also means a different way of working than they have done before. In the old town people moved in and built houses with only minimal infrastructure in place. The new area with 6,000 plots of land, earmarked for housing, is completely uninhabited and will stay that way until water pipes, sewage systems and roads are in place.

The map of the new town has all the plots and lands drawn up on it, and the new water pipes will be mapped via Gemini VA.

“Whoever made this software has really thought of everything,” said Leshamta, clearly impressed.

For Taveta, proper infrastructure is about more than just ensuring everyone has water in their homes. The town is an agricultural community with a large market twice a week. People come to trade here from both Kenya and Tanzania, and a well-equipped market facility with running water and toilets means more trade and a positive impact on the local economy.

Projects and friendships

Just as much as town planning though, this project is about friendship and building relationships. “The bottom line is we are friends,” says Meek. “We have been to Kenya twice yearly for many years and we have had several people visit us here.” There have been exchange programs lasting up to eleven months in both municipalities.

For Meek and Dahl, a project like this is also useful, “It is an eye opener to see how things are done in other places and what problems they face,” says Dahl.

In August, a group from Melhus will go to Taveta to see how the project is running and assist further. “For Taveta, this project means that they can build expertise within their own municipality administration, whilst demonstrating that they can provide basic services that improves health and living conditions,” says Dahl. “On a more personal level, it provides pride and a sense of identity.”

In November, Taveta will host an East-Africa conference where they will present this project. The conference will be attended by local and national governments from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia along with Norwegian partners. The town and this project will be a showcase for overall urban planning.

Powel has lent Taveta two Gemini demo licenses, and wish them best of luck with this important project that will optimise water resources, minimise pollution and ensure reliable water supply.