UN leads Nairobi in saving endangered city lake
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12 June 2018
Author :   Karitu Njagi

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The UN Environment has joined a list of growing voices calling for the rehabilitation of Nairobi dam in Kenya’s biggest slum, Kibera.

Apart from fencing off land flanking the artificial lake from waste dumping, Juliette Biao, the director and regional representative, UN Environment, Africa office, says the government should find a way of dealing with settlements mushrooming into the wetland.

“The main challenge is urban planning. The population is growing. If that was factored into urban planning, Nairobi dam would not be choking from solid and liquid waste today,” says Biao.

Established as the city’s spare water reservoir since 1953, Nairobi dam used to be a recreation attraction. Seafarers had a sailing club here where they used to meet for catch up. But today, the dam is a mass of dangerous sludge.

Sewage and solid waste flows freely into the dam morphing into 88 acres of sludge. Even the water hyacinth weed, which sits on this layer, seems to be fighting for new space to colonize. There is none left.

Two sewer lines cutting through the slum from leafy neighborhoods in the North leak into open gutters.

As they accumulate, they erode into bigger drains to ease the pressure liquid waste exerts on them.

It is through these that Nairobi dam has been polluted over the years, making it an environmental and health hazard, says Mohamed Ahmed, an elder living in the Kibera.

Ahmed has seen the better side of the dam for the 67 years he has lived in the slum.

As a child in the 1950s, Ahmed recalls catching fresh fish from thedam when he would go to wash his clothes and bathe there.

“Life was good,” he says. “We even used water from the dam for cooking and drinking.” That was until the late 90s, he says. The dam was abandoned due to increased pollution and mismanagement.

Mathew Mbuvi, 30, who has been making a living from waste collection in Kibera for the last four years, says cleaning the dam will also reduce water borne diseases in the slum.

“The dam is situated on the edges of Kibera, yet we cannot use it for our car wash businesses,” says Mbuvi, who belongs to the Kibera Gamers self help group.

To succeed in rehabilitating the lake, says Dr. Biao, Kibera residents must be enabled to own it as a community asset which can meet their basic needs and create job opportunities.

According to Lang’ata MP, Nixon Korir, the first phase of rehabilitating the dam has taken off and includes clearing waste and planting trees around the lake’s terrain.

“We need fish here, we need a lake where people can ride boats, a
recreation facility, a tourism site that can bring revenue and create
employment to the people around Lang’ata and Nairobi at large,” says
Korir.

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