Saving Nairobi River

The poor river meanders miserably through the busy Nairobi’s Central Business District. Her water is almost black in color. Pollution here is at its peak.

I pitied her as I stood on her bank near Kirinyaga road. The poor thing had a mountain of garbage afloat. And that was not all – another monstrous heap of garbage lay on her banks, ready to drift into the water.

If you thought that what she carried beneath her belly was water; you had to be excused. It was real poison. At least that is what I termed it. Or how else would you have described the blackish foul-smelling stuff that oozed into the river at various points?

How would you have described the floods of industrial wastes that ran into river? Poison! I even learnt that the poor river is a washroom too. I watched two grown-up men hurry down and unzip their trousers. Then they did their thing excitedly right into the water.

The river is the eldest in a family of three main rivers that make up Nairobi basin. Others are the Ngong River and Mathare River. The rivers, according to the information on the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) website meet toward the East where they flow into Athi River on their way to the Indian Ocean.

Looking at all manner of structures on her banks, I wondered whether Nairobians care about the environment at all. ‘Development ‘is the main concern here, I thought. High-rise buildings that pose environmental risks are a common sight in the city. Then there is the challenge of the sewage system that cannot stomach the growing pressure.

Such are the challenges that the poor river is facing. She does not only receive tons of untreated sewage that the Nairobi industries emit but also acts as a cheap dumping site for city dwellers. It is estimated that the city generates around 2,400 tons of dirt on daily basis and the river stomachs nearly half of that amount according to NEMA.

Although the dirt in the city is supposed to be collected and be taken to designated dump sites, illegal dumps in the city are common. Poverty is also to blame since many folks find disposing the dirt in the river to be a cheap option.

It is encouraging however to note that the river has friends too. The Nairobi River Basin Program (NRBP) is trying to fight for her survival. The body comprises of various stakeholders such as UNEP and UN-Habitat who have joined hands to ensure the river flows with clean water to improve livelihoods and that her ecosystem is well managed.

There is a visible sign of some progress in the efforts to clean the river. A keen look around the globe roundabout reveals the absence of a huge pile of garbage that existed there previously. The Nairobi City Council (NCC) has also designed some public toilets to improve sanitation in the area.

But much effort is needed to save the river. I observed that despite the previous cleaning exercises, the river’s waters are still toxic. Folks still use it as a dumping site. Industrial waste still flows into the river.

I also learnt from my observations and interactions with businesspeople along the river that folks only care about what happens to their businesses. No one seems to mind the poor river. I therefore thought that a vigorous environmental awareness campaign is necessary.

The media in collaboration with other stakeholders can help in such a venture. Change has to begin from within. Folks have to take the words of Kenyan Nobel prize laureate Wangari Maathi seriously. That if we destroy nature, nature will destroy us.

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5 Comments on “Saving Nairobi River”

  1. Napah Says:

    In my opinion, the piece highlights the rive’s plight quite well. It our duty and that of our government to ensure that the river is cleaned.
    Asanga keep up the good job.

  2. Joel Bulyar Says:

    Hi Ateka this is a great story.It has captured the real problems of Nairobi river.Bravo!Keep it up.

  3. Abisai Amatalo Says:

    Do a book Silvano!

  4. Anne Wangeshi Says:

    Kudos silvano. This is the first piece of writing or broadcast item about Nairobi river that has not left an aftertaste in my mouth. It allows readers to look at the river with optimism and hope.
    Keep it up.

    • sassanga Says:

      Hi Ann, thanks very kindly for your comment and encouragement. Made a new post and edited an older one. You can kindly visit.


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