Former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu, who remained steadfast in his support for President William Ruto during campaigns for the last elections, has finally been rewarded with a position on the nine-member Nairobi River Commission (NRC).
The NRC, appointed through a December 2 Kenya Gazette notice, will be chaired by Dr Pamela A. Olet, a former boss of the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council.
The Nairobi County government will be represented by Dr Mumo Musuva, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry by Grace Senewa Mesopirr and Riverine Communities by Eva Muhia.
Other members are environmentalist Elizabeth Wathuti for civil society groups, Carlota Dal Lago for the private sector, Elijah Biama for academia and Dr Duncan Ojwang, the dean of the School of Law at Africa Nazarene University.
President Ruto said the NRC will work to reclaim Nairobi rivers as a spine for the city's blue and green infrastructure so as to improve the urban environment and the quality of life of residents.
The NRC will coordinate the cleaning up of the Nairobi River and its environs and the work will be spearheaded by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. It will report quarterly to DP Gachagua and the commissioners’ tenure is three years.
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President Ruto said the NRC will examine reports and recommendations made previously in efforts to reclaim the Nairobi River and incorporate the lessons learned in the new initiative.
These include the Nairobi River Basin Project (Unep, 2000); Adopt A River Initiative (Unep and Rotary Clubs, 2019 and ongoing); the ongoing Nairobi River Regeneration Initiative (UN-Habitat and the government); and the Urban Rivers Regeneration Programme (Nema, 2019-2024).
The team will assess the rivers in connection with current and future issues and their root causes and develop a Nairobi Rivers Basin Regeneration Programme to restore and enhance the Nairobi basin and related infrastructure.
This is meant to enable the full enjoyment of a safe, inclusive and healthy environment for all and unlock the socio-economic potential of the basin.
It will also coordinate the activities of various players in the rehabilitation, protection, restoration, beautification and sustainable development of the riverine basin in the county. The goal is to transform the Nairobi river system into a new economic and retail frontier in the city.
The NRC will also monitor compliance with the laws and regulations governing the environment of the basin and its catchment areas in collaboration with the departments, agencies and/or ministries of the county government and the national government and initiate institutional and regulatory modifications where necessary.
President Ruto said the State has a duty to protect the environment and the country’s heritage for the enduring benefit of current and future generations.
To combat the devastating impact of climate change in Kenya, the government wants to implement various measures to fight environmental degradation.
“The Nairobi River Basin ecosystem has, notwithstanding varied State interventions, not regenerated sufficiently to sustain aquatic life in the river channel stream and has remained murky and turbid,” Dr Ruto said.
“It has become necessary to foster the coordination of the initiatives for the protection, restoration, rehabilitation, beautification of the Nairobi rivers and all water bodies within the boundary of the Nairobi City County through a basin-wide integrated approach.”
The NRC will be funded by the national government and the Nairobi County government and donations and an endowment to implement the Nairobi Rivers Basin Regeneration Programme.
On Monday, Dr Ruto said there was no turning back in the bid to reclaim Nairobi and transform it into a city of dignity for its millions of residents.
He said the national government will work closely with the county government led by Governor Johnson Sakaja to achieve that dream.
The President explained that the dream is to sort out the filth in the capital city and make Nairobi a place that people can enjoy and where enterprises can grow by getting rid of sewage and all other effluents that are going into its rivers.
“If you look at our rivers in Nairobi, it is a sad story and I want to assure residents … that we will make the Nairobi River what it should be,” he said.
The Nairobi rivers system has suffered decades of neglect, with the dumping of human and industrial waste and encroachment by humans, who have built more than 4,000 structures along the riparian reserve, threatening the existence of many rivers.
Attempts to clean up the rivers, and especially the Nairobi River, started with the Nairobi Basin Programme in 1999 but little has been achieved.
There was a similar attempt to clean up the river between 2001 and 2003, but this too was futile.
In 2007, some Sh150 million was pumped into the rehabilitation of the 2.5km stretch from the Museum Hill roundabout to the Racecourse Road bridge.
In 2009, former Environment minister John Michuki was praised for reviving the river before it went back to its sorry state.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta also formed the Nairobi Regeneration Programme, a multi-agency team spearheaded by former Environment CS Keriako Tobiko to clean up the filthy river basin.