CHOKING WATERS

Nema shifts focus to Athi after Nairobi River cleaned up

The river, from Ondiri to Kirinyaga Road 'is now spotlessly clean'

In Summary

• Nema has a pollution control strategy for the Athi, which becomes Galana-Sabaki River before it drains into the Indian Ocean.

• The Sh82 billion Thwake dam water will be safe for human consumption and irrigation after Athi River is cleaned up.

National Environment Management Authority director-general Mamo Mamo, who spearheading the clean-up. Image: File.
National Environment Management Authority director-general Mamo Mamo, who spearheading the clean-up. Image: File.

The National Environment Management Authority has turned its attention on cleaning up the Athi River after a job "well done" on Nairobi River from Ondiri Swamp in Kikuyu to Kirinyaga Road.

The Sh82 billion Thwake dam water will be safe for human consumption and irrigation after Athi River is cleaned, Nema director general Mamo Mamo said.

Mamo told the Star that “the river (from Ondiri to Kirinyaga Road) is now spotlessly clean”.

He said the agency had come up with a pollution control strategy for the Athi, which becomes Galana-Sabaki River before it drains into the Indian Ocean.

“The challenge we have with Athi River is that most industries within Mavoko sub-county are discharging into the river and Kenani treatment plant,” he said.

Mamo said the Cabinet has approved the strategy and they are only waiting for funding to the tune of Sh1.2 billion to start the pollution control. They will restore the basin by planting relevant tree species like bamboo.

The money will also be used for mapping out discharge points. “We are going to map out all the industries that are discharging into Athi-Sabaki,” he said and warned the culprits that the law will soon catch up with them.

The four-phase Thwake dam is expected to change the lives of 1.3 million residents of Makueni, Kitui and Machakos counties.

Phase one, which is ongoing, involves the construction of an 87-metre high dam wall with 688 million cubic metre storage capacity.

Phase two will involve the installation of a hydropower generation plant while phase three comprises the installation of water supply, sanitation and waste water infrastructure.

The fourth phase will be the development of the irrigation component.

Mamo said waste from the slums is one of their biggest challenges. “When it rains upstream, all the waste settles into the restored Michuki Memorial Park.”

However, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services has cleared heaps of garbage that had clogged the river.

Mamo saidtwo waste trappers will be erected near the Boulevard Hotel and at the bridge on the lower side of the Michuki Park from where solid waste will be collected.

At the beginning of the 90-day crackdown on Michuki Park polluters on July 20, Nema identified 143 discharge points, which have since been fixed.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko had warned that the government would be mercilessly descend on those discharging untreated and toxic waste into the river.

“The crackdown, which will be led by the National Environmental Management Authority, will be sustained and aggressive and no one will be spared,” Tobiko said.

"I am warning polluters who release untreated and toxic waste into our rivers be it residential, factories or plants that their days are numbered and they will be dealt with ruthlessly. There will be no sacred cows.”

Mamo told the Star that they had enged 90 youths to remove solid waste from the river.

He said the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company had been directed to work on the broken sewerage system.

Sewer lines around the Arboretum have already been fixed.

“Nairobi Metropolitan Services is working on improving the sewer system by building sewer lines within the slums,” the Nema boss said.

He, Tobiko and Water Resource Authority officials went on a fact finding tour of the Athi basin from Ondiri to Malindi using a chopper and collected samples whose findings are yet to be shared to the public.

“We visited the dam and collected samples as the river enters the dam and as it leaves. This will help us establish the quality of water that reaches the dam. There have been allegations that it is sewerage,” Mamo said.

He said an analysis of the samples will enable authorities to know if there if there are any heavy metals before taking the appropriate corrective action.

Nema has urged the Kenya Association of Manufacturers to ensure that all its members have functional effluent treatment plants.

“We are going to close their facilities in Nairobi and Mavoko if they do not have functioning effluent treatment plants,” he said, adding they will invoke the polluter pays principle.

“Those facilities will undertake the clean up at their own cost. They will also restore the environment.” 

 

- mwaniki fm