Faces behind city suburbs shitload of sewer millions
SEE ALSO: Let’s go DutchAt Dagoretti Corner, huddled in their corner on road reserve, the smelly honey suckers whose bodies are emblazoned with wisdom dripping with sarcasm compete for space and attention with their cousins, the bowsers who dispense “clean water.” At times, the water bowsers and exhausters are used interchangeably. There are an estimated 7,000 exhausters operating in Nairobi and neighbouring towns in this tightly controlled multi-billion shilling venture. One operator, George Maina said he had different rates according to the regions. “I charge Sh13,000 for an 18,000 litre truck in Karen. In Kileleshwa, the rate is Sh14,000. Other regions have different rates,” Maina added. Although the treatment plant at Ruai is owned by the County Government of Nairobi, the disposal points where sewerage is emptied by exhausters have been clandestinely ‘rented’ to sewer barons who charge between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000 for every truckload emptied into the sewer line. The cartels have zoned off the city into regions controlled by autonomous cartels and who demand a one-off membership fee of Sh100,000 for new entrants.
SEE ALSO: Ailing CS Tuju doing wellAgainst this background some developers have devised illegal means of getting rid off their sewerage by pumping it into rivers or roads at night or illegally connecting to existing sewer lines within the city. One insider, Kenneth Masai recounted how his friend split Sh28,000 with some supervisors after emptying four trucks of human waste from septic tanks in Jamhuri Show Ground into a corner of the same park. “Recently, we had a three-day religious crusade at the show ground. At the end of our crusade, the toilets had to be exhausted. I was shocked when a friend intimated that he had made four trips in a record two hours,” he explained. Mr Masai’s friend, a truck driver, later confided that he had just dumped the four trucks at a corner of the park and pocketed Sh7,000 for each for the trips to Ruai disposal site that never were. It costs Sh7,000 for a truck to evacuate 10,000 litres from a domestic septic tank in the city. This waste is supposed to be ferried to Ruai, but the honey suckers are known to cut corners. In one of life’s ironies, majority of the affluent and the powerful who live in posh areas of Karen and other estates such as Muthaiga are not connected to the city’s sewer line. They are not also connected to the water pipeline and have to rely on bowsers for cooking and drinking water. Most of this water is drawn from bore holes which are sank in the low density estates. Isaac Kalua, a leading conservationist, said there are cabals who have been minting millions from the sewerage mess at the expense of people’s health. “The exhausters are operated by cartels. They even have an organisation,” he said. “Nairobi does not have a good working water and sewerage system. People have been allowed to sink boreholes everywhere including next to septic tanks. That is why we have so many water-borne diseases because people are consuming raw sewer in the name of water,” Mr Kalua warned. Neglected sewerage Water and sewerage, he said, ought to go as a package, but most policy makers had neglected sewerage because it was an unseen problem which could not earn one “political marks on a podium.” Muguna said although his organisation was facing challenges from old and dilapidated sewerage infrastructure, this is compounded by gangs which deliberately block functional ones. “There are some gangs who derive their livelihood from deliberately blocking sewer lines in their strongholds and preventing our technicians from repairing them,” Muguna explained. Former Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company chairman Kabando wa Kabando said the rot is deep-rooted. “During my time, I learnt that there were some technicians who had established a routine of deliberately blocking the sewer lines so that they could be paid once they came to repair,” he said. “I remember there was once a members club whose sewer would start leaking every Friday, the club had to call Nairobi Water to have the leak fixed. It was strange that despite the repair the same problem would recur the next Friday,” he said.
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