Picture this. A housing development that might just have jumped straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine. The design is exquisite but there is a problem.
The nearest sewerage line is kilometres away. The only access is by a dusty track more suited for donkey drawn carts. So the developer puts more money building a sewage treatment plant and roads. By the time he is done, the cost of houses, which was already high, is high watering. This is the reality.
Although it is expensive to come up with a waste management system like biodigester plant, it is a must-have for a property developer in such areas if they are to sell their houses.
Others rely on septic tanks, which also have to be emptied regularly.
“The status quo has been the traditional septic tank, or connecting to the public municipal sewer, which is not available in many places. But while that is the case, the long term life time savings outweigh the initial capital input,” says Lucy Wanjiku, founder and engineering director at Ecocyle Ltd.
But there are also the unscrupulous ones who resort to directing sewage to nearby rivers or road, putting them on a collision course with the National Environment Management Authority.
The Ruai Sewage Treatment Plant in Nairobi, the third largest in the region collects and treats an equivalent of up to 80 per cent of waste water generated from the city of Nairobi. The rest ends up in rivers or other disposal means that could expose residents to harm.
“This is mainly because the government has not been able to roll out this basic amenity as population expanded fast over the last few years. Case example is Nairobi, where there are approximately 24 sewage treatment works in Nairobi City County, with approximately only 40 per cent of the city area being served by the sewerage network,” says Wanjiku.
Those who want the best have to pay through the nose for it.
Take an example of Safaricom’s Staff Pension Scheme and Commercial Bank of Africa Sh4.3 billion Crystal Rivers Mall coming up in Athi River just after Mlolongo.
Crystal Rivers project sits on 5.7 acres of land, measuring 200,000 square feet. The developers had to construct a biodigester that will cost Sh25 million.
According to Josphat Muthumbi, director at Xenocon Consulting Engineers, a civil and structural company working on the project, if the EPZ sewer line was nearer — it is about 1.2 kilometres away — they would have just linked their sewer to it.
“It would also have cost the developer huge amount (of money) that would go to pumping the waste to the sewer line because it is uphill. The mall’s sewer line will treat 400 cubic metres of waste water daily,” says Muthumbi.
Just near the entrance of the mall is an above-the-ground concrete sewer line from Greatwall Apartments Phase Two, which is owned by Erdermann Property Ltd. It was constructed to join the EPZ sewer line that is on the other side of Mombasa Road but was stopped due to the planned high speed Mombasa Road.
According to Wanjiku, while sewer management is a must have for every development that generates sewage, it is a big challenge to property developers.
She adds: “The waste water generated in Nairobi is roughly 400,000 cubic metres a day, only around 32,000 cubic metres a day and 112,000 cubic metres a day of waste water reach the two major treatment plants in Nairobi region; Kariobangi and Dandora waste water treatment plants respectively. The installed equipment does not even function properly.” This, she says, is a situation that means most people have to manage their own sewer, and the population risks being prone to sanitation related diseases as untreated sewage flows unchecked.
Wanjiku says developers thus must take up the challenge of ensuring they provide safe ways of managing sewage, which comes at a cost thus increasing the cost of property development.
“The lack of the same within their developments also means potential clients may shy away for fear of their health,” she adds.
According to Wanjiku, having waste water optimally managed within a premise and as well as maintaining lush green, clean and safe surrounding, this indirectly contributes to increased property value and a sense of well-being for the occupants.
The government, Wanjiku says, should consider having basic infrastructural amenities which include sewer management, electricity, water supply and roads put in place before actual development commences.