BY BETTY MAINA
Manufacturers in Industrial Area, especially those operating along Lunga Lunga road and its surroundings are at the end of their tether. The ebb and flow of effluent into their premises is a daily phenomenon that often brings business to a halt.
The causes are manifold. The biggest being the proximity of these businesses to settlements like Mukuru slums where illegal structures encroach on sewer lines. Despite various meetings with high ranking County government officials and the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company, which is tasked with sewer maintenance, their cries have not been heeded to date. The negligence continues as blocked manholes and poorly maintained sewer lines feed the discharge into factories, where products that demand for high healthy standards like foodstuff are manufactured.
This kind of outflow is bound to contain contaminants and the frequent sewer chokes and backflows often take a toll on the health of employees who often call in sick setting firms further back and rendering them uncompetitive. Every now and then companies are forced to temporarily halt operations because of the surging flow into their premises resulting to dropped production. Some employees risk losing their jobs if this issue is not resolved.
To battle this menace, some companies have resorted to expensive in-house sewer management systems which set them back about Sh30,000/- per day. This high cost is passed on to consumers adding to the cost of doing business.
Proposals to expand infrastructure and reduce the overload remain unattended to as the buck is passed from the County to the Athi Water Services Board in an unending back and forth game. When backflows are reported to the concerned authorities, nothing is done about it. Other bodies such as the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Health, though aware of the situation, have done nothing to alleviate it.
Such occurrences just add on to our grievances with counties who charge us improbably high levies for services that they do not deliver. At the heart of devolution is the promise of better service delivery both for the citizens and the private sector, which should lead to reduced costs of doing business and better livelihoods for Kenyans. But infrastructure development in the counties so far still leaves a lot to be desired.
These sewers are a health hazard for the whole community and warrant urgent attention from the Nairobi county government. A long lasting solution that attends to the problem of encroachment on wayleaves, a lack of water and the laying down of proper piping needs to be thought out and implemented quickly. It has been going on for far too long now.
(The writer is the chief executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on [email protected])