Heaps of garbage, water rationing and the hawking menace still face Nairobi residents, one year after the Nairobi Metropolitan Services took over the running of affairs in the capital.
Further; the polluted Nairobi River, poor drainage in the city centre and land grabbing, among others, continue to reign supreme in the city.
The problems that have stalked the county government since the advent of devolution in 2013 and which saw former governors Evans Kidero and Mike Sonko ignominiously exit City Hall, still loom large.
The breakdown of service delivery in the capital saw President Uhuru Kenyatta establish the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) on March 18, 2020, to take over the running of key City Hall functions for two years. The agency was tasked with bringing corruption to an end as well as dismantling cartels that have hindered the development of the county.
This came after Mr Sonko transferred the functions of health, transport, public works, utilities and ancillary services, and county planning and development from the county government to the national government on February 25, 2020.
Undaunted, however, NMS Director-General Major General Mohamed Badi has set his sights on leaving behind a smart city as his legacy at the end of the two years.
The plan, set to be implemented in the second year of his tenure, will see the introduction of smart lights, smart cameras, underground automated parking as well as digital parks and open spaces, to transform the capital into a smart city.
According to the ambitious blueprint, smart street cameras will be introduced on all roads in the capital. The cameras will be linked to operation centres at police headquarters and the NMS operations centre to monitor everything on the streets.
Bus termini within and outside the city centre will also be hooked up to cameras and digitally monitored from the control centres.
Major General Badi, in an interview to mark the one-year anniversary of NMS, said the plan will not only reduce crime in Nairobi, but also streamline the transport sector, with police officers situated in police posts to be established in the termini charged with enforcement.
“This will ensure we are able to monitor all our streets, and, in a way, reduce crimes committed in various places in Nairobi,” said Mr Badi.
Further, modern streetlights and floodlights will be installed on the streets, in markets and crime-prone areas, particularly in the slums. The modern energy saving lights will be integrated with Wi-Fi and cameras.
Trees will also be planted along the roads with the aim of having Nairobi regain its lost glory of the “Green City under the Sun”.
“When a streetlight is not in use at night, the light will automatically go dim to save on power. If a car passes, then it goes back to full light to provide security. It will be capturing whatever is going on,” he explained.
Already, NMS is in the process of contracting a firm in a government-to-government contract to roll out the plan.
He said NMS has, in the past year, restored more than 50,000 streetlights in Nairobi that had either been vandalised, had electrical problems or were unserviceable.
The NMS boss explained that when his team took charge on March 18, 2020, most traffic lights were not working as the contractor had abandoned the project due to non-payment.
“We managed to bring back the contractor and paid him whatever he was owed. He has finished the work and now all the traffic lights are working and we have a contract with the firm to ensure they are all serviceable throughout our stay,” said Mr Badi.
Nairobi River Waterfront Improvement project will also be revived to modernise the front of the river, complete with public resting places as well as restaurants for use by people.
The project, that will cover between Globe up to Race Course Roundabout, will be done by NMS in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and other agencies to ensure that the project from is implemented.
“We will light up the whole of Nairobi River to have people enjoy the river’s front, as it is in other cities, like the River Thames in London. The restaurants will offer people the chance to talk as they enjoy their evening meals,” he said.
On the transport front, NMS is currently working on moving matatus and boda bodas out of the city centre into seven termini on the outskirts of the city.
The termini will be modern with dropping and picking points digitally controlled and will have Wi-Fi, restaurants, ablution places, dispensary, police post and supermarket.
They will be linked to the commuter rail system, non-motorised transport and bus rapid transport.
“The first one to be unveiled next week will be Green Park terminus at Railways Club. We have also divided the works to different teams and we are hoping to simultaneously have all the other six completed within a year,” he said.
Non-motorised transport corridors
Already, non-motorised transport corridors have been implemented along Kenyatta Avenue, Muindi Mbingu and Wabera streets, complete with pedestrian and cycling paths.
The project is being enhanced to Uhuru Park all the way to Hurlingham, Jogoo Road and in Westlands, with the aim of creating safe walking and cycling paths for Nairobi residents within the city centre and other areas.
Major roads have also been rehabilitated in the city centre, with a number of lanes re-carpeted to bitumen standard.
More roads are being built across informal settlements in Nairobi targeting nine slums including Mathare, Korogocho, Kibera and Mukuru, with China Roads and Bridges Company winning the Sh5 billion contract for 408 kilometres of roads.
“The project began in January and we want them to be complete in January, 2022. So all our slums will have tarmacked roads within the next year. There will be sewer connection, water and street lighting along all the roads,” said the NMS boss.
A smart city without water will be untenable and towards this end, NMS has drilled 193 boreholes in various areas in Nairobi to provide free water for residents; it has procured 22 water bowsers to reach areas with shortages and during emergencies as well as gazetted all existing water bowsers as part of plans to weed out water cartels in the city.
On the environment, 110 illegal dumping sites and effluent discharging points have been closed and waste collection points will soon be gazette, to have an organised way of garbage collection in the city.
The NMS has also engaged 24 new garbage collecting firms while also renegotiating contractors with firms that had contracted by City Hall to collect garbage but which stopped due to non-payment.
“The contracts have just been signed and we hope that from this week, we will be able to clear the accumulated garbage in Nairobi,” he said.