At Plot 10 area, music blares from bars, pubs and barbershops. Mama mbogas cut cabbages and sukuma wiki as customers wait. Some traders fry fresh fish, cook chapatis and githeri, boil and roast maize in the open air along the roads.
Handcarts, bicycles, speeding motorcycles, vehicles and a swarm of people all jostle for the same space on the narrow streets, most times causing endless traffic snarl-ups.
All these and more describe a typical day in the densely populated Pipeline estate in Embakasi South Constituency, Nairobi County.
High-rise flats, some going up to seventh and eighth floor, dot the estate. In most of these flats, the ground floor house business premises, ranging from wines and spirits shops, baby care centres, mini supermarkets, clinics, schools, salons, hotels, betting shops and bars.
Some flats are so closely constructed that phone network is now a challenge. Lights have to remain on in the rooms even during the day because the high rise flats block the natural light.
Residents say they have to get to the top of the building to get sunlight.
Muddy roads are the signature feature and and it gets worse when it rains so much so that only gumboots can save you. There is however a cabro-paved sidewalk stretching from Tumaini Supermarket towards Kware until Stage Mpya.
Pipeline suffers all kinds of social, health and infrastructural problems that have now made the estate a case study for issues affecting urban life in Nairobi.
The densely populated estate is in Pipeline Ward, which also has middle income estates such as Kenya Pipeline Company Estate, Avenue Park and Tumaini.
Poor or lack of planning, prostitution, lack of water, congestion, poor roads, a huge number of bars or pubs existing closely with churches, academies, among others, are what characterise the estate.
Some families that care about bringing up their children in spacious, secure and clean environments are now moving to places like Utawala, Imara Daima, Fedha and Tel Aviv areas.
“It’s no longer safe to raise your child in Pipeline estate as it used to be before it became full of people and all the social ills now associated with it,” says Peter Arina, who moved to Utawala.
“Prostitution by skimpily dressed girls who come from as far as Kayole, is now the order of the day from as early as 8pm,” he says.
Arina says almost every morning dead foetuses are found dumped in the composite pits and along the estate roads.
The estate, which stretches from SDV Transami area on North Airport Road to Kware area on its border with Doonholm, has many single-room and bedsitter flats where many young people share a room.
Pipeline MCA Stephen Gikonyo says after the population census next year, he expects the ward to be promoted to a constituency because it qualifies for that, thanks to its high population.
Gikonyo says a majority of residents here work in factories along Mombasa Road, Industrial Area, Eastern Bypass, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and in the Nairobi CBD.
“The flats, which are not expensive and are connected by a good transport system, have attracted many residents to the estate,” he says.
Single rooms are rented for between Sh3,500 and Sh5,000 a month, bedsitters from Sh6,500 to Sh8,000 and one bedroom Sh10,000-Sh14,000.
The estate is served by two major roads; Outering Road that connects to Jogoo Road, and Eastern Bypass that connects to Mombasa Road. A commuter train also passes through the estate daily on weekdays.
Majority of the flats have no water, forcing residents to rely on water vendors, who make a killing selling the commodity whose source nobody knows. Residents standing in a circle waiting to fetch water from an underground manhole as some kneel to draw water and fill in jericans is a common scene in Pipeline.
Despite the heavy population, the estate lacks amenities like social halls, hospitals and public schools, giving unscrupulous business people and quacks an opportunity to invest in private academies and clinics.
No space for clinic
Gikonyo, who is also the vice chair of the County Assembly Public Health Committee, says Sh20 million has been allocated to the ward in the 2019-2020 budget for the construction of a public health centre, but there is no space for it.
It’s only recently that the roads have started being constructed, with the populous road from Plot 10 to Tumaini Supermarket being cabro-paved.
“I have warned the contractor who won the Sh33 million tender to build the road from Lower Pipeline to Stage Mpya area twice to fast-track the work or else the contract will be terminated,” says the MCA.
He says he has now completed streetlights projects, despite resistance from prostitutes.
“They are trying hard to destroy the light sensors by hitting them with stones or throwing a rag on them because their business thrives in darkness,” says Gikonyo.
Police patrols in the estate are a daily routine from 7pm, but residents accuse the officers of only collecting bribes from bar owners.
With the poor planning, some flats are built on road reserves, making the roads narrow.