Replacement of asbestos roofing yet to be implemented for lack of funding decade after ban

One of the asbestos-roofed Government houses in Machakos town. The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has sounded a warning over disposal of the dangerous material. [Photo:Erastus Mulwa/Standard]

The county government lacks money to replace asbestos roofing sheets on its houses and other public facilities.

County Director of Housing Maroke Maina said they needed Sh500 million to effect a Government ban on asbestos, which came into effect in 2006.

“At the moment, funding has started trickling in but it is not enough yet. It will take us the next 10 years to do away with asbestos roofing,” said Maina.

The Government banned asbestos after it emerged they can cause asbestosis, a lung disease resulting from the inhalation of asbestos particles.

Cardiac failure

Inhaled asbestos fibres aggravate lung tissues, which cause them to scar. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while breathing. In its advanced stages, the disease may cause cardiac failure and cancer.

As of January 2014, 55 countries across the world had banned asbestos with an additional 16 placing restrictions on its use.

County National Environmental and Management Authority (Nema) Director Willice Omondi said replacing asbestos roofs was taking longer than expected because the department of housing was slow.

“That is why public facilities are still roofed with asbestos years after the ban,” said Omondi.

He added: “Most of the houses built in the 60s and 70s had asbestos. They were given by donors. The department of housing has blamed its failure to replace the materials to lack of funds.”

Omondi called on the county and national governments to set aside funds to replace the roofing material.

“They need to factor this in their budgets. We must strive to implement the ban. And this is not just about county and national government buildings. Many private structures also have asbestos,” said Omondi. Activist James Wakibia accused the county government of poor disposal of the asbestos they had removed. 

“The county has not handled well replacement of the asbestos. They dump the materials which are later collected by residents oblivious of the dangers they are exposing themselves to,” said Wakibia.

Maroke MainaGovernment ban on asbestosNational Environmental and Management Authorityasbestos roofing sheets