There are major concerns about the state of the Nairobi River, which runs through the heart of Kenya’s capital. And Kenya’s national environmental management agency is cracking down on industries accused of discharging pollutants into the river.
But not enough is being done, states Nairobi University lecturer Damaris Mbui in an article published in the scientific dissemination site The Conversation, headlined “I looked at how polluted Nairobi River is. What I found”.
“A lot happens along the course of the Nairobi River as it makes its way from the north west to the south east of the city,” writes Mbui. “It’s used mainly by residents of low-income settlements as a source of water for cleaning homes, bathing and for watering crops. But it’s also used to discard household and human waste as many homes don’t have toilets, and industrial waste is frequently dumped in the river.”
There are huge holes in the governance of the river and the city’s waste, which have enabled the river’s poor condition, Mbui claims. More needs to be done to address this, especially as the city continues to grow.
Her studies of the presence of metals in the water found that the levels of lead, copper, chromium, zinc and manganese were far beyond those allowed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority. She also studied bacteria levels, finding “incredibly high” levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) – up to one million units in 100ml of water. There should be no E.coli in drinking water. Its presence indicates faecal contamination, which could lead to periodic outbreaks of water-borne diseases like typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
Mbui also detected serious flaws in the management of industrial, solid and human waste. There are very few sanitation facilities in slums and other informal settlements, she reports, so residents use the river to dispose of their waste. For those with sanitation facilities, there are just two sewage treatment plants that service Nairobi, but one can’t process very much wastewater and most of the equipment at the other has broken down.
In conclusion, Mbui proposes a seven-point to-do list for Nairobi civic authorities to remedy the disastrous situation. From cleaning the river to ensuring that sewage units are efficient to seeing that policies involving wastewater disposal into the river are adhered to, from enforcing policies on how industries should manage their wastewater to providing sanitation facilities in informal settlements, her recommendations are guidelines for saving the Nairobi.
View on Map
Alarm over pollution of Nairobi River