22.8 C
November 30, 2023
County Focus Sanitation

Unchecked pollution of city’s water sources poses health risk

Away from its swanky glass facades, trendy cafes and ultramodern highways, deep into its neighbourhood, Nairobi’s estates convulse
in water stress, chaotic settlements and nauseating
stench of open sewers.
Hundreds of houses and pit latrines in Kawangware,
among other informal estates, discharge raw sludge
into Nairobi River and its tributaries.
The same water from this river is used by peri-urban
farmers downstream — in Njiru and Mwiki — to irrigate vegetables consumed by city dwellers.
Last month, the Water Kenya team traced the Nairobi
waterway upstream, from Kangemi, where seemingly clean water flows unadulterated until it reaches
areas in Kawangware.
Walking along the river’s bank, from Kawangware
towards the city, the water becomes increasingly
darker and murkier as raw sludge and debris from
Gatina and Congo in Kawangware, and Sodom in
Kangemi run into the river at certain points.
More contamination from garage spillage, surface
runoff and effluence from surrounding buildings is
released into the riverine around the central business district.
Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretarygeneral Stephen Mutoro is categorical that it is criminal for anyone to discharge sewage into a waterway
and blames the lapse on the county government’s
poor surveillance in efforts to end the mess.
Nairobi’s sewerage infrastructure is old, having been
laid over 40 years ago, and constrained in terms of
It is, thus, prone to frequent bursts, which worsen
the risks of contamination of water sources.
Mr Mutoro said due to rampant contamination of
water sources, urban farming needs to be licensed
to curb practices such as using water polluted with
“This, however, doesn’t happen due to lack of surveillance and enforcement, which are county government responsibilities,” the Cofek boss said.
Environmental Compliance Institute director
Gerphas Opondo warned that raw sewage effluent
contains industrial and human waste, and other toxic
substances that are harmful to health.
“The waste water also contains pathogens that settle
on the vegetable leaves since the farmers carry out Management Authority director, said many residents
were admitted to hospital with cholera in the last few
months, which is a pointer to sanitation deficiency.=
He added that it is time the government took public
health with the seriousness it deserves.
“Most of the water pipes run side by side with sewage
pipes. Contamination is likely to happen, especially
during construction, when excavators hit and break
water and sewer pipes,” Prof Ratemo said.
“In addition, surface runoff during the rains mixes
with clean water in the burst pipes, resulting in
In sections of Umoja, Mathare, Huruma, Eastleigh,
Kibera, Mukuru, Kayole and Pipeline, piped water
mixes with raw sewage as leaking plastic water pipes
run across open sewers.
Since the ability of people to pay the full cost of
water depends, as it does with anything for sale, on
income, Nairobi’s poor residents have no option but
to contend with contaminated water.
This is usually at the risk of their own lives.
Less than two months ago, the country was hit by a ment is a pressing problem in many cities in developing countries, including Kenya.
He said the main driver in a city such as Nairobi is
exponential population growth and urbanisation.
“Nairobi’s population growth has been accompanied
by rapid development of housing units, both informal and formal.
“The sewerage infrastructure in Nairobi is over 40
years old. This poses two immediate problems —
wear due to age, and low capacity to accommodate
new connections,” Mr Onga’re said.
Water sources
He said the capacity constraints had led to the us of
septic tanks by many households in the city.
Mr Ong’are said Nema had taken up both dialogue
and enforcement with the Nairobi City Water and
Sewerage Company (NCWSC).
He added that the firm is exploring ways of upgrading the sewerage infrastructure.
“Unfortunately, it is an extremely expensive undertaking and might require a public-private partnership arrangement as one of the options,” he noted.
A Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation conducted by WHO and Unicef in 2015

showed that access to improved water sources in

Kenya’s urban areas had plummeted from 92 percent
in 1990 to 82 percent in 2015.
In rural areas, however, access to water sources
increased from 33 percent to 57 percent during the
same period.
A recent assessment of the NCWSC water conducted
by the Water Sector Regulatory Board found that 93
percent of drinking water samples collected from
city taps complied with quality standards, which should
make the commodity very safe for consumption.
But Lartech Africa managing director Lamarck Oyathargues that because most Nairobi residents get water
from the NCWSC on countable days or do not get itat all, it means they get most of their supply of the
commodity from vendors.“But who knows where these vendors get their waterand who regulates them?” Mr Oyath asked.
While the NCWSC has an option of hiring suppliers
to distribute water to areas it cannot access, thefirm has failed to do so, and, instead, remainedcomplacent,
leaving the opportunity for a takeover by
cartels.In some instances, the cartels close valves in certainareas to create artificial water shortages to makebusiness for their vendors, according to Mr Mutoro.
Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe last month
claimed that the NCWSC has seven regional managerswho are also the same owners of water tankers
and sewage trucks.
“The same tankers transporting water also carrysewage, which worsens the risks of watercontamination,”
Mr Igathe said during a televised debate by
candidates for the deputy governor posts.

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