State seeks Sh2.5 billion to clean up polluted River Athi


Water Principal Secretary Fred Segor speaks in Machakos. [photo by Erastus Mulwa, Standard]

The government is seeking Sh2.5 billion to clean up River Athi, which is threatened by pollution.

Water Principal Secretary Fred Segor says the ministry is in the process of setting up a team of experts to develop a plan to guide the process.

River Athi, whose source is Ngong Hills, traverses several counties in Ukambani and the Coast region. Residents downstream have raised the alarm over the pollution, which threatens the river's entire ecosystem.

The proposed Thwake Dam, which will be constructed at the confluence of the Athi and Thwake rivers, is also likely to be threatened if the pollution of River Athi remains unchecked.

Last year, the House Committee on Water and Natural Resources toured sections of the river in Yatta and Mwala constituencies, on the invitation of Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi, to assess the extend of the pollution.

The MPs resolved to ensure that the river is protected from further pollution.

Prof Segor spoke yesterday after opening an induction retreat for national water sector institutions' boards of directors on the Water Act (2016) at a Machakos hotel.

He said the government has committed to clean up the river because of its strategic relevance to the country's water needs.

"River Athi is one of our very important rivers in Kenya and that's why we are sourcing for funds to the tune of Sh2.5 billion to see what we can do to clean up the river," said the PS.

He added that the clean-up, which would be implemented by the Government, donors, and development partners, would take about 10 years.

More allocations

Segor said the government had set aside money in the 2016/17 budget for the clean-up. "More allocations will be made in subsequent budgets."

The PS said legal action would be taken against industries and other institutions polluting the river.

"We are calling upon industries and all concerned institutions to strictly adhere to regulations and guidelines of waste disposal. If they fail to do this, the bodies mandated to regulate use of water and to safeguard the environment, including the Water Resources Authority and the National Environmental Management Authority will initiate their prosecution," he said.

Segor, who also read a speech for the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation, Eugene Wamalwa, noted that the sector faces challenges that need urgent attention by policy makers, regulators, and project implementers.

According to the CS, a new water law will spearhead the development of the sector.

"The Water Act, 2016 requires restructuring and/or creation of new institutions," he said.