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The headache of keeping Nairobi clean

The headache of keeping Nairobi clean

Garbage handling is easily the greatest challenge Governor Evans Kidero faces in managing the city Ironically, several initiatives have been undertaken over the years to restore Nairobi’s lost glory If the daily complaints in this newspaper’s Op-Ed pages are to be trusted, Nairobi is becoming one huge refuse dump.

One of the latest complaints went: “Nairobi is becoming increasingly filthy. Today there is garbage all over the place… How do we deal with the hawkers responsible for the menace? Can the county government act before an epidemic breaks out?”

While the reader singled out hawkers, garbage handling is easily the greatest challenge Governor Evans Kidero faces in managing the city.

According to Mathieu Mérino in an article titled ‘Management of garbage in Nairobi: Perspectives of restructuring public action’, in the book: Nairobi Today: The Paradox of a Fragmented City; public services, particularly management of garbage, benefited from major investments by the colonial authorities from the beginning of the 20th Century.

“By 1910, the town authorities were using enough staff to ensure the regular cleaning and maintenance of public areas (especially the streets) and the collection and disposal of garbage,” writes Mérino, adding, “waste management worked relatively well until the mid-1970s.”

Today, a combination of factors, including an apparently overwhelmed county government and Nairobians’ peculiar habits of relieving themselves on pedestrian overpasses, has ensured that footbridges that were meant to minimise road accidents are rarely used.

And what seemed like public health crisis has morphed into a security issue following the recent Dandora dumpsite gang shootings.

The population of the 32,000-square-kilometre city has grown from 325,000 people 50 years ago to 3.1 million as per the 2009 census, which is perhaps why Governor Kidero appointed one-time Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo to take charge of the Water, Forestry and Natural Resources docket.

Although he was sworn into office mid-September, Mr Gakuo’s appointment is yet to yield any fruits—a paradox given that during his tenure as town clerk, Nairobi acquired some semblance of cleanliness, hence Nairobians’ excitement when he was appointed to his current docket.

Ironically, several initiatives have been undertaken over the years to restore Nairobi’s lost glory.

Back in June 1994 when the Kenya National Environmental Action Plan (Neap) was evolved, strategies were forged whose implementation would have made the city’s ubiquitous garbage menace history.

Nema’s first director-general Michael Koech told the Nation in an interview that environmental pollution and solid waste management was among the nine task forces he formed in the build-up to the drafting of laws to protect Kenya’s environment.

The Neap was the backbone of an environmental Bill that resulted in the 1999 Environmental Management and Coordination Act, Prof Koech of Kenyatta University said. The law, he says, has everything needed to manage solid waste.

NEAT AND LIVEABLE The October 2010 Preparatory Survey for Integrated Solid Waste Management in the City in the Republic of Kenya, which was prepared for the then City Council by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), among others, is one of the latest efforts at outlining what must be done to make Nairobi as neat and liveable as other global capitals.

Implementing the document would see Nairobians breathe some fresh air like they did during Mr John Michuki’s stint as Environment minister.

While the Jica document cites insufficient funds for the city’s failure to implement clean-up initiatives, it also stresses the need for a legal framework for the public-private partnership in the management of solid waste, meaning, city clean-up is the responsibility of every Nairobian.

By Dorothy Kweyu Daily Nation 6/11/13