There’s an old phrase about a rising tide lifting all boats, irrespective of design and size, to safety and success.
For almost a year, the business community in the capital subscribed to this aphorism following the transfer of core services from the inept City Hall to the orderly Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
When he was sworn in, NMS boss Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi hit the ground running and said Nairobi would undergo a major face-lift to restore its continental status as the ‘Green City in the Sun’.
He pledged to upgrade roads, build health facilities, fix the transport system dominated by chaotic matatus and restore order in public offices.
Months down the line, there’s a stark contrast between the gleaming streets at the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) and the dilapidated infrastructure in downtown Nairobi. The difference as night and day.
Beyond the neat façade of manicured non-motorised transport corridor dotting Kenyatta Avenue, Wabera and Muindi Mbingu streets at the city centre, the larger CBD needs an urgent face-lift.
Open fecal matter, heaps of garbage, flooded streets, lanes and roads with potholes, the lower section of town is in a sorry state.
At the city centre, key among the NMS improvements have been the red and grey bricks forming NMT corridors for pedestrians and cyclists, re-carpeting of roads and restoration of streetlights.
However, the facelift has only been a scratch on the surface of the city centre with only the frontage easily seen by people being improved. The public resting area outside Hilton Hotel has been turned into a sleeping location by street families.
The same is true of alleys along Biashara Street, which have been turned into ‘open bedrooms’ by street families, mostly women and their children, who openly defecate along the pathways.
Downtown Nairobi has been left crying out for urgent makeover as it slowly descends into another slum in the city centre. Taveta Lane – just a few metres from the Kenya National Archives – is fast rivalling the Dandora dumpsite.
Reeking of pungent smell from fecal matter and decomposed garbage, the lane is now a dumpsite for surrounding salons, restaurants, shops, stalls and hotels.
To marinate the mounds of garbage are customers of the several wines and spirits shops, who openly pass water on the solid waste right behind Grand Holiday Hotel, Sunning Hill Exhibition and Ndungu House.
“Some of the garbage collected last Friday. We are used to the mountains of garbage littering this lane,” says a hawker.
Just on the opposite side is Tsavo Road, which is dotted with potholes. Tsavo Lane is worse as the whole stretch from Kenneth Matiba – formerly Accra Road – to the other side kissing Latema Road is a no-go-zone.
The lane has been taken over by miraa traders who have erected their makeshift roofs for sunbathing their khat, forming a dark canopy. On the opposite side, Duruma Road and River Lane are also in a bad state with potholes and strewn garbage peppering the two passways.
The stretch from Globe Roundabout is an official hawkers’ path, who spill to Kirinyaga Road. At the Jainsala Road, Ngenda Lane and Charles Rubia Road convergence is a heap of garbage that has seen many days, if not months.
First native African mayor
The mound is right behind Rumit Stores Limited on the side facing Keekorok House. Named after the first native African mayor of Nairobi, the road is full of potholes that if one misses their step while stealing a glance at the sex workers common on that location could leave them on the ground – without teeth.
There are also heaps of garbage at the Riverside Bridge, while behind Mutigwo Iganjo Hotel, shanties act as spare parts stalls and eateries for mechanics working at a nearby garage.
Along Ring Road, a mountain of garbage welcomes you to Kamukunji Police Station.
Between Wakulima Market and Kahawa House along Haile Selassie Avenue is a hawkers’ paradise.
Although admitting to the problems, Maj-Gen Badi says the future is bright with the completion of a new asphalt plant that will help in re-carpeting of more roads.
Based on Kangundo Road, the plant can produce 2,400 tonnes of bitumen daily, which is enough to re-carpet three kilometres of a road.
Nairobi has been relying on asphalt from a plant on Nanyuki Road in Industrial Area, which produces only 150 to 300 tonnes a day.
Street vendors and mechanics will soon be moved to a new market next to Utalii College along the Thika Superhighway, he said.
NMS has engaged 24 new garbage collection firms and renegotiated terms with contractors that had been hired by the defunct county administration.
“The contracts have just been signed and we hope that we will be able to clear the garbage soon,” says Maj-Gen Badi.