14 counties blamed for abetting Lake Victoria pollution

River Nyamasaria that drains into Lake Victoria is arguably one of the most polluted rivers in Kisumu County. [Collins Oduor/Standard]
The environmental watchdog singles out 102 companies in those counties, government agencies included, which discharge effluence into the lake.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has blamed 102 companies in 14 counties for polluting Lake Victoria.

It says 14 of the institutions are in Kisumu, with nine of them being government agencies. Nema's revelation follows complaints of increased pollution of the lake. At the same time, it announced it had gazetted 580 environmental inspectors, two in every county, to detect and monitor cases that could lead to environmental pollution.

Boru Mamo, Nema's acting director-general, told The Standard that some of the companies have not complied with orders to close down, arguing that the solution is not to close them, but instead offer them a chance to correct the mistakes. He added that some of them are critical and cannot be closed down.

“We do not like to close down companies but we want them to comply and we do this through restoration orders, which if not complied with, are followed by closure orders,” said Mr Mamo.

Some of the named organisations are government entities like prisons and learning institutions whose closure will have a ripple effect. Mamo said that after assessing the impact of closure, it sometimes makes more sense to allow for corrective measures.

He said pollution of the lake does not emanate from Kisumu alone, but also from the other surrounding counties. He classifies pollution of the lake into two categories: point sources and non-point sources.

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Point sources include companies and institutions while non-point sources include car washes and sewer from slums among others. Mamo gave an example of Kisumu, which has an 18 per cent coverage of sewer services. The city’s sewerage system was constructed in 1957 and is yet to be upgraded, leaving the waste not catered for susceptible to disposal in the lake.

“Ending pollution in the lake requires a concerted effort involving all stakeholders working together; one entity cannot achieve it alone because of the various factors involved,” said Mamo.

A report by the Kisumu County Environment Department notes that Lake Victoria suffers from pollution from human activities in the entire basin.

“The pollution is conspicuously manifested in Kisumu area because of the city’s geographical location on a gulf that receives pollutants brought about by action even from distant places. Once in the gulf, the pollutants are unable to disperse because of limited wave action,” says the report.

In 2019, Nema commissioned a rapid results initiative programme between July and August, which involved an inspection of 570 facilities in six counties. It managed to inspect 298 facilities by September 19.

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