The ‘stimulant’ water meters of Lamu

LAWASCO chair Mohamed Athman points at a vandalized meter .Lamu water has reported losing sh 30 million to scammers PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu,KENYA:In a dusty street in Lamu Island , Ali Osman ( not his real name)  dusts his shirt.

Osman a habitual drug user who seemingly is just from taking his daily dose  is not really worried on where his next dose will come from, at least not at the moment.

Carrying around a tag of a narcotic addict is not an  easy role, Not especially in Lamu where ‘teja’s as they are commonly referred to are linked to numerous crimes including pick pocketing in their quest to get money to purchase drugs.

Osman who fears arrest explains that in recent months their focus has been turned water  reading meters.

Osman’s motivation lies behind desiccant , a water meter preservatory agent which he now sniffs to quench his  insatiable thirst.

However Osman is not the only user who has made the new discovery, more and more addicts  are now aware of  the stimulating effects of the substance much to the chagrin of the the Lamu county water and sewerage company (LAWASCO).

The company is now worried that the situation is getting out of hand and has already resulted in loss of water metres worth millions which have now become a clear target for drug addicts in the town.

The preservative agent being pursued by the addicts is normally installed inside the metres to absorb moisture in order to keep the meters dry and rust-free.

The LAWASCO chairperson Mohamed Athman said the agent is sniffed and also consumed by mouth leaving an ecstatic feeling in the consumers.

Athman says so far over 350 metres worth Sh.2.1 million have been destroyed by the thirsty addicts.

Athman cites Langoni, Mkomani,Gadeni,Bajuri and Kashmir areas in the town as the most affected.

“How the discovery came about we don’t know,all we know is that water meters here are now in danger as these addicts seek the preservative agents which they sniff through the nose and mouth.So far we are counting Sh.2.1 Million losses in metres destroyed so far.The trend is dangerously high and worrying.They seek out metres,break them and extract the agent which is in powder form and leave,”said Athman.

He said the situation was also making the work of the LAWASCO difficult as they now find themselves unable to read metres and issue the necessary billings to owners in areas where the metres have been vandalized.

The LAWASCO manager Paul Maina says they are incurring losses in water bills in the affected areas since they are unable to determine the bills when the metres have been vandalized.

Maina says they have however issued notices to all water metre owners in Lamu to be vigilant and look out for the drug addicts who have embarked on a vandalism spree just to get a hold of the powder.

He said they have also asked those putting up new houses in the town to consider having their water metres installed inside and not outside where they risk being vandalized by the addicts.

“We can only issue water bills after reading the metres but since thus trend started,we have lost a huge amount of money in water bills since we are unable to ascertain how much a certain facility or household needs to pay when the metres have been vandalized.Anybody with a water metre must now exercise extreme caution,”said Maina.

Omar Bingwa,an elder in the county says the police need to arrest and prosecute those found vandalizing the metres.