Mind your waste, commission says as it cleans Nairobi River

Already, the commission has pulled some 4,450 tonnes of waste from some sections of the ailing basin

In Summary
  • Nairobi River Commission CEO Brigadier Joseph Muracia said there is need to practice proper disposal of both liquid and solid waste
  • The action plan shows that at least Sh20 billion is needed for the entire project
The unclogging of the Ngong River. Image: Nairobi River Commission.
The unclogging of the Ngong River. Image: Nairobi River Commission.

Nairobi River can regain its lost glory in six months if Kenyans decide to be mindful of the environment and practice proper waste disposal.

Nairobi River Commission CEO Brigadier Joseph Muracia said there is need to practice proper disposal of both liquid and solid waste.

Solid and liquid waste have made the once blue waters dirty and smelly.

Already, the commission has pulled some 4,450 tonnes of waste from sections of the river.

The waste has since been moved to Dandora.

Muracia said a 6.5 km distance of the river has been cleared.

“The river can be clean in six months if Kenyans want it to be clean,” he said.

"I also urge factories and institutions to undertake waste water treatment to the minimum required microbiological and chemical quality standards before disposing of effluent,” Muracia said.

He said Mathare, Nairobi and Ngong will be beautified.

In some of the areas, unclogging has shown good signs that the river will be clean.

Already, stakeholders have developed an action plan to regenerate the basin.

“The stakeholders did the action plan. We only coordinated the stakeholders to come together and gave them specific areas that we thought would be important to address and give us solutions because they know the problems and they have the solutions,” Muracia said.

He said a validation exercise was done on September 1, 2023, at the Windsor Hotel, where 49 institutions were represented.

Muracia said the most important thematic areas include riparian mapping and reclamation.

Others are catchment reclamation and protection and waste to rivers (solid and liquid waste).

There are short, medium, and long-term actions that need to be done.

He said the commission's work is to coordinate and avoid silos as institutions execute the thematic actions.

Already, a joint multi-agency coordination centre is being established, and will bring on board various representatives from various institutions.

The cleanup operation covers Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Makueni counties, with actors drawn from various ministries and agencies.

The action plan shows that at least Sh20 billion is needed for the entire project.

Some of the money will be used to address solid waste management in the five counties.

In Nairobi, more than Sh900 million is needed to tackle solid waste: Kiambu (Sh486 million), Kajiado (Sh516 million), Machakos (Sh647 million) and Makueni (Sh433 million).

This brings the total amount of solid waste management to more than Sh3billion.

To address sewerage in Nairobi, Sh964 million is needed Kiambu (Sh2 billion), Kajiado (Sh725 million), Machakos (Sh304 million) and Makueni (Sh450 million), all amounting to more than Sh4 billion.

This means solid waste and sewerage management in the five counties need slightly more than Sh7 billion.

The action plan also shows that geo-spatial-riparian mapping needs Sh62 million, drainage and hydrology need Sh3 billion, catchment protection and restoration need Sh9 billion and industrial and institutional waste management need Sh11 million.

Other resources needed include commutation and community engagement (Sh30 million), employment of at least 1,000 youth (Sh45 million), a joint multi-agency operations center (Sh20 million) and multi-agency or stakeholder situational analysis (Sh30 million).

The major actors in the cleanup include the national government and the county governments of Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Makueni.

Others are the ministries of water, sanitation and irrigation, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Land, Interior and Defense.

The State Department of Devolution, the Water Resource Authority, NYS, AWWDA, Nema, Kenha, Kura, Kerra, NWHSA, county water utility companies and the National Disaster Operations Centre are also actors.

Decades ago, Nairobi River had clean drinking water from four main rivers; Ngong, Nairobi, Mathare and Mbagathi.

Young boys fished along the river that was sparkling with clean water from Lavington to Dandora.

Today, Nairobi River—a Maasai name for cool waters—does not support life, except for scum and maggots.

The sad state of affairs compelled the state to institute the Nairobi River Commission through a Gazette notice dated December 2, 2022.

Muracia said the commission will help bring coordination as past efforts failed to yield results.

President William Ruto, in Executive Order No. 1 of 2023, assigned Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua various roles, among them overseeing the restoration of the Nairobi River.

Dr. Pamela Olet is the chairperson of the commission.

Former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was named as a member of the commission but was rejected through a court process.

Other members include Eva Muhia, who represents riverine communities; Elizabeth Wathuti, who represents civil society; Carlota Dal Lago, who represents the private sector and Elijah Biama and Duncan Ojwang from academia.

There is also Mumo Musuva, a representative from Nairobi county, and Grace Mesopirr, who represents the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

The members shall hold office for a term of three years, renewable based on performance.

Muracia said every Kenyan has a responsibility to keep the environment and water resources safe.

He said the cleanup needs a lot of resources and goodwill from Kenyans.

The exercise got a boost on September 29 last year during an El Nino preparedness meeting at the Deputy President’s residence in Karen.

During the meeting, the CEO made a presentation on the need to unclog some of the areas within the city to ensure free flow of water and reduce situations of rivers breaking their banks.

Defense CS Aden Duale and NYS director general had promised to provide two excavators, three tippers and personnel.

Muracia said the National Steering Committee on Drought Response coordinated the issuance of Sh2 million worth of fuel against the equipment that had been provided.

“We began the unclogging operations on November 9, last year, in Viwandani, where flooding waters had engulfed the industrial park. Operation later shifted to Mukuru kwa Reuben and Kware Bridge,” he said.

Muracia said Kware Bridge alone had an accumulation of solid waste covering 300 metres length due to overgrowth of the river above solid waste.

He revealed that plans are already in place to have a Joint Multi agency operation centre to help coordinate all the activities.

Muracia said approximately 8,650 litres of diesel has been used since the operation started.

He said 1.6 acres have been reclaimed.

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