Let City Hall rehabilitate Nairobi Dam

Nairobi Dam

Nairobi Dam.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

For many years, mankind has been struggling to manipulate nature to suit its interests. This has been in the form of improving the environment, putting up dams either for recreation or enhancement of water sources. Dams are the greatest form of environmental modification. But despite their enormous benefits, dams can also pose a threat to the environment.

For instance, Nairobi Dam, located on Ngong River, which flows through the informal settlement of Kibera, was established as a reservoir for domestic and emergency water supply for the capital city. Besides, it has for years been a major attraction for recreational activities such as sailing and fishing. It at one time had a sailing club, where Nairobi residents flocked in droves, especially on weekends.

All this now remains as nostalgia. The dam has been rendered useless. It is heavily polluted, just like other water bodies in Nairobi County. It is the meeting point of domestic, industrial and other solid discharges, which congregate with hyacinth to make this once-attractive dam an eyesore.

Harmful to mankind

The dam’s water emits a very foul smell and is, indeed, harmful to mankind and other species. Tests carried out through the years show a very high degree of sewage contamination. This is because the residents of Kibera slums have built pit latrines and bathrooms on the riverbank. Those who have houses near the dam are no longer happy homeowners. Mosquitoes are another menace.

This dam, like other water bodies in Nairobi, carries heavy metals and using the water for agricultural purposes is a risk to human health. It should be rehabilitated.

The government recently appointed a commission to clean up water bodies in Nairobi. Nairobi Dam can still attract residents, just like Uhuru Park does. There was a time a group from China, with the collaboration of the Nairobi City Council, then through the Department of Environment, introduced micro-organisms to try and kill the water hyacinth but it didn’t work.

Human activity

What is required in order to rehabilitate this dam and other water bodies in the city is to deal with pollution and the Nairobi City County government and the commission appointed by the President should immediately go on the ground and deal with this menace.

Letting water bodies die through deliberate actions of human activity should not be allowed. Nema regulations, the environmental laws and even the Constitution strongly advocate for a clean and well-protected environment.

The time to talk in meetings—even at the international level, where Kenya is well known, especially when it comes to the fight against climate change mitigation—is over. We need action and City Hall should start by ensuring the Nairobi Dam is clean.

Nairobi residents need the sailing club, which was once a big attraction over the weekends, revived.

Mr Kigo is an environmentalist. [email protected].