NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 14 – While the river that Nairobi owes its name to continues to flow, its waters are contaminated by industrial and domestic effluent, so common in many developing cities.
The waterway which was once dubbed “a river of water of life,” has been transformed into a river of death.
The amount of wastewater – both domestic and industrial – that pours into the river has reached proportions of immense dimensions.
According to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the dumping of waste into the river has affected the smooth flow of the stream.
NEMA Deputy Director of Environment Betty Nzioka said that this has affected the liquid nature of the water and transformed it into a semi-solid murky flow.
“We will now be more focused on the quality as we stop further discharge,” Mrs Nzioka stated.
“Now we can actually deal with the physical quality as we strive to make the river to flow,” she added.
NEMA has embarked on an initiative seeking to clean up the river involving the removal of solid waste from illegal dumpsites within estates, the river basin and riparian reserve and the clearing of the river channel.
The Deputy Director urged owners of businesses next to the river to ensure that their sewer lines are connected to the main pipe and not discharging into the river.
”Some of it is storm water in the original storm drains which got mixed up with sewage and we are trying to trace back and urge the responsible premises to connect their sewage into the existing sewer lines,” she said.
At the same time Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Vice-Chancellor Mabel Imbuga stressed the need for policies to be put in place to discourage the discharge of garbage into water bodies.
She said that environmental sustainability should be incorporated in school’s curricula to instill on students the need to conserve water bodies’ cleanliness.
“We have to develop a policy that will help us to mainstream environment and sustainable environmental issues into our curriculum,” the VC stated.
“As you realise, if you have a policy, its easy to implement things and policies come out of a need and there is a need for our students to be aware of environmental issues.”
National Central Business District Association (NCBDA) Chairman Timothy Muriuki said that once cleaned, the Nairobi River could serve as a tourism attraction in the country.
He pointed out that this would boost the country’s economy to a large extent due to businesses that would crop up along the river’s banks.
“As NCBDA we think that a river flowing in the middle of the city in itself is an attraction and can be used in more resourceful way,” Mr Muriuki stated.
“You can setup nice restaurants besides the river that do not disseminate wastes into the river,” he explained.
Kenyans interviewed by Capital News expressed differing views of the clean-up of Nairobi River.
Stanley Karuri, a 24-year-old accountant said that the river is in a much better state now compared to before. “It is better now. People have been removed from the river base and now the water is flowing smoothly,” he said.
“It was like a dumping place because every sewer was going into it and most of the street boys were sleeping there,” he added, but was quick to emphasise that more could be done to restore the pristine nature of the stream
“NEMA is doing its work. If it is a sewer, let it be connected to the main channel to be collected at Ruai or Dandora,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Thomas Azere, a 37-year-old clerk at the Princeton Academy who observed that the waters of the canal are much cleaner and clearer.
“Something is happening. Compared to times past it is a bit cleaner than it used to be. It used to be so dirty that you could not even move nearby but at least now there is some fresh air coming out of it,” Mr Azere stated.
He however said that stern modalities need to be put in place to ensure that no more dumping takes place at the river.
He said doing this will preserve the river for future generations.
“There is some credit to be given about something which has happened and if some more efforts can be put in, then Nairobi River will go back to where it was previously before,” he said.
The Nairobi River Basin comprises of three main rivers namely Ngong, Nairobi and Mathare.
The Nairobi River flows through the Central Business District. It is the main river of the Nairobi River Basin, a complex of several parallel streams flowing eastwards.
The rehabilitation activities on Nairobi River’s basin are on-going at various parts of the basin and the work has been supplemented by the engagement of youths under the Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative.
Currently, all the solid waste in Kijabe street area has been removed and we hope that the rest of the river will finally be cleared of the debris that has marred the smooth flow of this centuries-old stream that is of historic importance.