Kenya: Nairobi Water Bosses Face Arrest Over Pollution

A young boy sits over an open sewer in the Kibera slum, Nairobi (file photo).

Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) boss Nahashon Muguna and his Athi Water Works Development Agency counterpart Michael Thuita risk arrest if they do not fix dysfunctional sewer lines in the city.

This after National Environment Management Authority (Nema) gave the two agencies' heads two weeks to fix the problem.

NEMA Director-General Mamo Boru pointed out that a lot of pollution experienced in Nairobi is a result of broken and dysfunctional sewer lines.

Subsequently, he said, Nairobi Water needs to ensure Nairobi has a functional sewer line while Athi Water needs to work on improving sewerage coverage in the capital city.

"Broken sewer lines are a major pollution problem in the city. We have now given the two heads two weeks to fix the problem or else we will arrest the officers and take them to court," said Mr Boru.

The NEMA boss decried that only a half of Nairobi is covered with sewerage out of which less than 20 percent has proper coverage.

"The coverage is less than 20 percent. Where does the wastewater go to? They need to work on the problem. Areas like Karen are not served by sewer lines. They rely on septic tanks and once they are full, the waste gets into the stormwater drainage all the way to our rivers," he said.

Last year May, Mr Muguna was arrested by Nema officers for allegedly failing to manage sewage waste in the city by allowing disposal of harmful waste into the Nairobi River. In 2019, he also escaped arrest after being tipped-off.

Mr Boru explained several companies and residential apartments around the city have been discharging raw sewerage into the river and they have identified 28 concealed illegal pipes discharging effluents into the river from residential areas, which they blocked.

"The flats are not connected to sewer lines depending on septic tanks. When full, they do a bypass and have the concealed pipes into the river. The issue is prevalent around the Kilimani area, Kikuyu area all the way to Wanyi Bridge," he said.

He further pointed out that the Authority, in its cleanup efforts of the river, have unearthed 142 illegal discharge points, 42 industrial facilities and 75 illegal structures along the river, which have been marked for demolition.

Mr Boru pointed out that they have also mapped out all informal settlements along the river basin identifying 54 illegal dumpsites for closure.

"The responsibility of solid waste management is a devolved function with the mandate resting with the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and we have asked them to ensure that they take action to remove the illegal dumpsites," said Mr Boru.

The environmental agency has also issued closure notices to owners of the 42 industrial facilities found to be polluting the Nairobi River following the lapse of a grace period issued to the firms last year because of Covid-19 disruption.

The facilities now have two weeks to comply by putting up functioning effluent treatment plants with Nema police unit and environmental inspectors' already visiting 12 facilities and issuing six improvement orders to the industries.

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