11 December 2017

Kenya: Pollution Poses Grave Risk to Kenyans' Lives, Warn Experts

Pollution is still a huge problem despite Kenya receiving praise during last week's third United Nations Environment Assembly for banning plastic bags.

Industrial waste, sewage and domestic waste have been finding their way into major rivers such as the Nairobi River, polluting the water and making it unsuitable for use.

Agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals have also been a major source of pollution in the country, posing serious health effects to human beings, plants and animals.

Emission of carbon from vehicles has also become a major cause of pollution.

Failure to have guidelines on tobacco smoking across the country and industrial smoke also remain a great hindrance to a pollution-free environment.


According to the UN Environment, over 80 per cent of the world's waste water is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where vegetables and plants are grown and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people worldwide.

A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over $4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.

According to a UN Environment report on pollution released in September, some seven million people die each year because of breathing unclean air.

The report also indicates that Oceans are filling with trash so fast that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the seas than fish.

The head of UN Environment, Mr Erik Solheim, said we need to beat pollution before it beats us.


"That means being able to breathe in our cities, keeping dangerous chemicals out of the food chain and stopping our oceans from being transformed into a plastic soup," he said.

The decision by Kenya to ban plastic bags was the first major step towards dealing with land, air and sea pollution.

During the conference last week, Kenya joined other countries across the world that promised to improve the lives of billions across the globe by cleaning up air, land and water.

When he addressed the conference, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya intends to move on to another major anti-pollution project.

"Soon, we will host the East African Framework Agreement on Air Pollution, building on the Nairobi Agreement of 2008," he said.

The East African Framework Agreement on air pollution was signed by African ministers in charge of environment with the aim of controlling and reducing agreed air pollutants.

The countries include Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


The agreement was to reduce air pollution in various areas, including transport, industry and mining, among others.

"This agreement brought together 11 countries to develop actionable targets to address air pollution," he said.

The government also committed itself to deal with lead poisoning, which experts say, is posing a major risk to children.

Experts attending the conference warned that high levels of lead found in paints are exposing children to a serious health risk.

"The next generation of children needs to be protected as lead paints will have an effect on their IQ, " says Mr Walker Smith, director of the Office of Global Affairs and Policy.

Lead in paint damages the brains of 600,000 children every year across the world.


Manufacturers add lead to the paint to speed the duration it takes to dry.

Ms Smith called on countries to put in place legislations to control lead paints. In Mombasa's Owino Uhuru slums, residents have been complaining of the government's failure to compensate them after they suffered lead poisoning.

A study by IPEN, an international environmental lobby, and the Kenya-based Centre for Environment Justice and Development showed thousands of children in Kenya are exposed to paints laced with illegal amounts of lead.

The study indicated lead poisoning has lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, anaemia, and disorders in coordination, visual and language skills.

Pollution harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.


According to UN Environment, overall environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and widespread destruction of key ecosystems.

Air pollution is the single biggest killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.

During the conference, governments agreed to work together for a pollution-free environment.

If all commitments are met, 1.49 billion people will breathe clean air and one-third of the word's coastlines will be clean.


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