By Peris Saleh, Mukuru
Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city has been changing quickly with regard to population growth. It is estimated that the city of Nairobi has a population of seven million people, more than half of this population (60 per cent) leave in informal settlements.
In a study conducted in 2016 by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) reported that concentrations of harmful particles from burning wood and charcoal as well as from vehicles and industrial plants in the informal settlements of Nairobi, more so in Mukuru which falls under the city’s industrial zones are much higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for a healthy environment for human beings.
With such ‘choking’ statistics something is definitely wrong somewhere, I keep asking myself where is the human value in people more so the industries? I am a resident of Mukuru Kwa Reuben and I love my neighborhood as well as the Mukuru community because its where I grew up. The people of Mukuru are very disappointed with some of the industries in Mukuru for not practicing best waste disposal practices, but instead choose to release toxic fumes into the environment that is dangerous to human health. Silently, poor people in Mukuru continue to suffer from chronic diseases triggered by the unabated air pollution by the industries. Today we name and shame one company in my hood, BACHU. The company deals in processing and making of steel.
A cloud of brown dust emitted from one of the industries in Mukuru
Life in the slums has common characteristics. The majority of slum communities to the city by poverty and starts their urban life in the worst areas. Over-crowding and lack of drainage and sanitary systems create conditions hazardous to health. The need for water and sanitary disposal services remains a major challenge to the more than 150,000 households in Mukuru. Most slum households must fetch their water from a standpipe and deposit their waste in open drains. The rate of infection is high; therefore with the air pollution problem there is constant risk of epidemic in Mukuru.
These findings, which were basically extracted from an air quality monitoring project conducted by the community in Mukuru Viwandani and Mukuru Kwa Reuben carried out by SEI in the Mukuru and Viwandani informal settlements in Nairobi, in collaboration with Muungano wa Wanavijiji, a community organization operating in informal settlements. The community members of the informal settlement were trained to collect the air quality data and conduct perception interviews, thereby informing and educating the affected public about the risk air pollution poses to their health and options on how to overcome this threat.
Doris Bosibori from the Mukuru community, who participated in the study, said: “The researches made us [the community] know more about air pollution and that we need to understand it better. Getting involved in the different aspects of the research, we also realized the urgent need to address air pollution issues by all the stakeholders, be it the government officials, the private sector as well as from us – as the community.”
The project was a clear success in terms of creating awareness and educating the community on air pollution. However, this is not enough we want to engage the industry owners as well as Kenya Association of Manufacturers that unsafe pollution that bear greater health risks to the people of Mukuru must be addressed urgently.
From our little experience, we are well aware that some of the residents suffer from respiratory diseases caused by air pollution. We are trapped to die slow and painful death, and this is why we call on the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to take stern action against the culprits.
The problem is that the company does emit excessive fumes to the air that pollutes the whole environment knowing the fact that it’s poisonous or unhealthy to human life. A lot of complains has been made but nothing serious has done to stop the emissions.
A lot of people are suffering from asthma problems because of the fumes that are released, the people who suffers the most are the children because of their weak breathing system. By making Mukuru as special planning area this problem will also be solved for a better health and clean environment for our society.