Water  Pollution, an Eyesore in Kenya’s Urban Economy

Water is an essential need for human survival and access to clean water is categorized as a human right. However, according to Healing Waters International, over a billion in the world do not have access to safe water. Climate change, changing rainfall patterns, and drought are mostly attributed to the catastrophe, even though in places where there is enough, water pollution is to be contested. Rapid population growth and high poverty levels in Kenya’s Urban areas have increased the demand for safe water.

Walking along Nairobi Rivers, the sight is abominable, choked with plastic and garbage. In some instances, ‘the sludge is so thick that it’s difficult to tell there’s a river underneath. This mixture of plastics, chemical residue, and petroleum by-products is a complex pollutant that also seeps through the soil and contaminates aquifers. However Kenya is recognized globally for its environmental actions such as the outlaw of plastic bags and single-use plastic containers, the lack of proper sewage treatment and disposal pokes a gaping hole in this commitment.

The Ruai land saga which highlighted the grabbing of the land set aside for the expansion of the Dandora Sewerage Treatment Plant, is a prime example of mismanagement and corruption in the state bodies charged with this critical infrastructure. Cases of encroachment into riparian land, open sewage waste disposal, and poorly installed and serviced water systems are common issues in Kenya’s Urban-water-landscape. Over the decades, private developers and squatters have slowly encroached on sewerage treatment properties leaving only 38.6 percent for the critical infrastructure, according to a report by the Ministry of Water, sanitation and and Irrigation and the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning.

The Kenyan Coast has not been spared of the blight of water pollution either. A report by the United Nations Environment Program revealed that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year. The damning revelation further states that, if the current trend continues there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. Consequently, plastic pollution presents a major threat to the marine ecosystem which is home to diverse species, helps in the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere, and is a source of livelihoods and food to more than a billion of the global population.

Calls to combat water pollution have intensified in the recent past, even though what is needed is the adoption and execution of critical policies, by both public and private sectors. Commendably, Twende Green Ecocycle, a start-up in the Kenyan Coastal City of Mombasa is buying plastic waste, collects plastic on beaches, and recycles it into sustainable school furniture, massively contributing to the plastic circular economy initiative. Kosgei, a cofounder of the enterprise says, “Repurposing the plastic waste into  school furniture is making something useful that will serve a purpose in the community.”

Watamu Marine Association (WMA) and Ecoworld Recycling, have pioneered a proven model for plastic waste disposal, collection, segregation, and processing, attracting a partnership with USAID to scale their plastic collection supply chains and advance a circular economy waste management model across Kenya’s Coast.

In the first quarter of the current financial year The Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation through the Waer Resources Authority launched the Nairobi River clean-up initiative that targets the entire Nairobi River stretch from Naivasha Road to Athi Riverat Z-corner Juja Farm.

The initiatives serve as a blueprint in the fight against water pollution. Water, an essential for our survival with its many uses from industrial to domestic, needs not only to be conserved but also be protected from pollution due to the prevailing effects like waterborne diseases, disruption of marine ecosystems, soil degradation, and drought

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