Kenya: The air in Nairobi is polluted. Not as bad in some China cities, says the World Health Organisation, but all indications are that it could get worse as more people move to the city and more industries are set up and the middle class buys more cars.
Most of the pollution is from vehicular exhaust fumes and industrial production. It is uncommon for one to smell foul air in some parts of the city especially around Industrial Area, Lang’ata, South B, Mombasa Road and parts of Embakasi.
The nausea-causing, putrid-smelling air hits your face almost every day of the week.
Dirty air causes lung damage as well as heart disease, stroke and cancer. The WHO estimates that one in eight deaths worldwide resulted from air pollution in 2013.
And that is why the launch of the National Guidelines for Strategic Environmental Assessment by the Environment Cabinet Secretary, Judi Wakhungu, yesterday was important.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment is a management tool to which adherence will help keep the environment clean.
Strategic Environment Assessment will help identify environmental impacts and measures that could mitigate certain conditions that pose a threat to a clean environment.
Industrialisation and urbanisation have taken place in Nairobi and other towns posing a serious threat to the environment as the number of trees and green spaces continue to be squeezed.
The advent of industrialisation and rural-urban migration in search of jobs have seen an abnormal rise in slums and other informal settlements. Add to this the race to own a car by the ballooning class and you have the ingredients of a polluted city.
And therein lies the problem of bad air in and around Nairobi.
The report fingers the slum areas as the biggest culprits in air pollution.
These informal settlements have to contend with poor dusty roads, lack of toilets, lack of enough supplies of water, poor waste disposal, heavy usage of wood, charcoal and kerosene in cooking, poor drainage and the burning of waste material. Huge heaps of uncollected garbage also contribute significantly to air pollution.
Whereas a few of these could be blamed on laxity by national and local authorities, through acts of omission and commission, Nema must be made to account for the bad state of things in the city.
Companies and individuals continue to empty domestic and industrial waste into rivers, posing serious threats to the people and animals that use the waters downstream. Uninspected incinerators spew toxic smoke into the city’s skyline.
There are reports of officers looking the other way as factories pollute the environment especially in the night with great abandon. Or of vehicles spewing exhaust fumes beyond what is acceptable.
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Polluted air, it has been proven, exacerbates asthmatic conditions and lung ailments.
Those who fall ill are constantly on sick leave, resulting in slackened economic productivity.
Nema, in conjunction with the national and county governments must therefore address pollution especially in the city and other urban centres.
Its mission, namely safeguarding and enhancing the quality of the environment, must be enhanced.