Fix urban filth menace


A garbage-strewn street in Pipeline Estate in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Our urban centres are choking from poor or non-existent garbage disposal systems. Taking a stroll through a random town, one will encounter filthy scenes of burning trash piles, raw sewage and noxious stench just off the main street. And it’s worse during the rains.

Perhaps these challenges are a reflection of the collective national apathy towards effective waste disposal. According to the UN, 2.8 billion people will lack safely managed sanitation in 2030. Let Kenyans not be part of such grim statistics.

It is troubling that our metropolitan areas are covered in filth. That demonstrates a lack of understanding of the benefits of clean environments. Sickening dirt is what one finds in many urban centres. Worse, individuals who make an effort to dispose of trash simply pile it up in public spaces.

Citizens may not be held entirely responsible if the garbage disposal value chain lacks explicit institutions and intentional investment. The national government and the counties must stop the tide of improper trash disposal by strengthening infrastructure and public education on waste management.

County governments recently complained about funding delays from the National Treasury. That will only worsen things. Expecting disheartened starving employees to pick up trash and clean the streets is inhumane. For the citizens, it is double trouble because they must deal with either inadequate or non-existent sanitary services.

With the counties experiencing a protracted cash crisis, the garbage mountains will only get bigger. In the long run, that will affect public health and the environment. Improper waste management robs people of their right to a habitable environment.

The red flag has been raised by county officials signalling the cessation of vital services, including waste collection and disposal. This must not come to pass.

To achieve the sixth SDG, on sanitation and hygiene, the national government must release funding on schedule for the counties to clean up the filth.

Mr Wagunda teaches communication studies at Rongo University. [email protected].