•The main threats to the river include insufficient sanitation infrastructure in the informal settlement upstream, uncontrolled domestic waste dumping
•The work is part of a larger 'Adopt a River for Sustainable Development' partnership between Unep and Rotary International
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed has lauded the ongoing efforts aimed at reclaiming the lost glory of the Nairobi River.
Mohammed spoke on Tuesday after a guided tour of the river basin that started at Kawangware Primary School.
"Today, I saw respect to Wangari Maathai. I can see many Wangari Maathais among the pupils of this school," she said, expressing her happiness with the initiatives at the school.
Some of the protection and conservation initiatives in the school include a tree nursery, energy-saving jikos and plastic waste collection points among others.
The school, jointly with Lavington Eco Rotary and among other institutions, has cleaned 15km of the Nairobi River at Kirichwa by pulling out 200 tonnes of waste, which included plastics.
The section Mohammed visited is along Kirichwa River - one of the main tributaries of the Nairobi River.
The river emerges from the Dagoretti-Riruta area in Nairobi, and flows through the Gatina area of Kawangware, and onwards to Lavington, then down past the Arboretum Park.
The main threats to the river, like many other urban waterways in Kenya, include insufficient sanitation infrastructure in the informal settlement upstream, uncontrolled domestic waste dumping, raw sewage and industrial effluents discharge.
Others are encroachment into the riverbanks, lack of enforcement of pollution control policies and low awareness about the value of the river.
Implemented by the Green Miles Coalition (local Rotary and Rotaract clubs), the main project partners include the communities living near the river, local leaders, schools and institutions in Kawangware, Lavington and Kilimani areas.
The work is part of a larger 'Adopt a River for Sustainable Development' partnership between Unep and Rotary International focused on restoration and protection of freshwater ecosystems, particularly removal of solid and other plastic waste.
Mohammed said education not only helps students to shine later in their lives but also to become sensitive to the environment.
"We have to work for everything that is good, we need to protect nature," she said.
" We have to protect the environment and nurture it as I have seen you in your school with your green. This is a school that has a green education."
During the tour, Mohammed, who is also the chairperson of the UN sustainable development was accompanied by Unep director, Ecosystems Division Susan Gardner, among other senior officials.
Rotary Foundation trustee Geeta Manek said they have been enhancing the capacity, managing and conserving the natural assets.
Manek said the initial project of adopting a river started over a year ago and during this period, they have had over 20 local programmes developed by 29 rotary clubs, which translates to 600 volunteers involved in projects in Ethiopia and Kenya.
She said her members have directly engaged with over 600 community members at ground level.
The clean up of Nairobi started in July 2020. Environment CS Keriako Tobiko started a 90-day crackdown that was spearheaded by the National Environment Management Authority.
The Nairobi River was a few decades ago sparkling clean and populated with fish, water beetles, dragonflies and other freshwater creatures.
Today, it no longer supports life, except for insects that feed on dirt.
Many attempts had been made to clean it before the late former Cabinet minister John Michuki took the bull by the horns and had it cleaned.
Mohammed later toured Mau Mau River.
At the Mau Mau River, which drains into the Nairobi River, she came face to face with the magnitude of the problem.
Mau Mau community-based organisation is helping to spruce up the river,
Mau Mau CBO chairman David Mabuka said those who clean the river are children married at an early age, those who misuse drugs and women who face problems in their homes.
The group of about 30 people helps to spruce up the river.
(Edited by Francis Wadegu)