Residents of Narok town are in a celebratory mood after the completion of a Sh1.7 billion sewer system.
Since independence, residents have relied on septic tanks which proved inconvenient.
They would fill up and flow into residential areas, roads and paths. Residents would choke on the stench from human waste.
Konenen ole Narankai, a member of the town’s business association, was quite elated during the inspection of the Lamenet Sewer Project on Tuesday.
“Narok town is the gateway to the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve, but over the years it’s been engulfed by a stench from overflowing waste,” Narankai said.
Narok Municipality covers Narok Township which comprises Narok town and Oleleshwa-Nkareta and some parts of Ololunga ward.
Some 200 households out of over 100,000 households have been connected to the Sh1.7 billion sewerage plant.
Some of the waste from the town has been finding its way into Enkare Narok River.
Due to lack of a treatment plan, exhausters transport the effluent to Bomet County, about 80 kilometres away.
Kelena Njoe, who owns a residential building within the town, said reliance on the septic tanks came with an extra cost of transporting the waste out of the town.
Njoe said before the sewer facility was set up, they used to pay Sh16,000 for a three-tonne exhauster. A seven-tonne exhauster cost Sh25,000.
“Our building is within the Central Business District, it houses a hotel and tenants. We used to empty our septic tanks three times a week at a cost of more than Sh75,000,” Njoe said.
During an inspection tour of the plant, Central Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency Chief Executive Officer Samuel Oruma said the project had addressed environmental issues.
He said prior to the project, residents relied on septic tanks that would fill up and overflow into estates.
President William Ruto is expected to commission the project early next year.
Oruma said 200 households and some institutions had been connected and they hope to connect 109,000 people by 2028.
According to him, the project is now 100 per cent complete and ready for operation after attaining the 18-month period.
“The whole system has been tested and more tests are being conducted monthly by other government agencies to make sure operation is 100 per cent perfect and the plant is not dangerous to the environment,” said Oruma.
According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census report, only 0.5 per cent of households in Narok were connected to the sewer while about 2.1 per cent used septic tanks.
Almost half of Narok’s population (49.2 per cent) used pit latrines and 28.2 per cent, practised open defecation.
Funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Kenyan government, the sewerage project is part of the larger Kenya Towns Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Programme, which aims to improve services in towns across the country.
According to Moses Manoti, a hotelier in the town, one year now after the sewer became operational, his business has been able to reduce operation cost.
He was among the first residents to be connected to the main sewer line, and he is a happy man.
“The is no more stench around the hotel. My guests are happy. You know when we used to have the septic tank, any time it rained, guests would complain of the smell from the tank.” he said.
He added: “In many of the slums in the town like Majengo, the atmosphere is clean and people there are also making savings as they no longer have to hire exhauster services,” said Manoti.
Nicholas ole Tempe, who owns several commercial and residential buildings, echoed Manoti’s sentiments.
Tempe said that, initially, he had a pit latrine in his premises and would get an exhauster twice per month.
“The situation worsened when it rained because the latrine would fill up quickly, meaning we would have to get the exhauster services more than twice a month. This had to be done urgently to minimise the risk of waterborne diseases,” recalled Tempe.
Institutions, including Maasai Mara University, have also benefited from the sewerage plant.
“Initially, waste from the university would spill over into neighbouring estates.”
“This caught the attention of public health officials, and the institution received several warnings. Also, considering the increasing number of students -- currently at 10,000 -- we needed to expand our sewerage capacity,” said Vice Chancellor of Administration James ole Nampushi.
Oruma revealed that the national government would undertake a Sh600 million Kilgoris/Lolgorian water project in Bomet County beginning next year.
The project now places Narok on the pathway to attain city status.
Governor Patrick ole Ntutu said Narok is strategically located in the South Rift region and has one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, the world-famous Masai Mara National Game Reserve.
“Narok County is fast growing into an investment destination of choice. Our agriculture- wheat and barley farming, tourism are fast growing attracting people from all over,” said Mr Ntutu said.
Narok Water and Sewerage Company Managing Director Stanley Kuyioni said the sewer project requires minimum maintenance.