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Water, garbage and transport biggest challenges for Johnson Sakaja

Cows graze on a heap of garbage along Jogoo road. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

When Nairobi Governor-elect Johnson Sakaja settles down to work, city residents expect him to focus on issues that have made their lives a nightmare.

Infrastructure and service delivery have been neglected, leaving Nairobians without adequate water, clean environment and functional sewerage and drainage lines.

Further, traffic gridlocks are the norm rather than the exception, a situation that is exacerbated by a chaotic public transport system under the strong grip of extortion cartels.

City planners have, for years, watched as the problems spiral out of control with successive regimes struggling to solve them.

In most estates and informal settlements, residents either rely on rationed water or get the commodity from vendors.

The city’s water demand is 790,000 cubic metres against the installed production capacity of 525,000 cubic metres per day, according to Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC).

Leakages due to old infrastructure and pipe interference, illegal connections, vandalism and catchment degradation further contribute to the water woes.

Constant traffic jams are attributed to a disorderly public transport system blamed on matatus, boda bodas, handcart pushers, taxi operators and hawkers competing for space on streets and lanes.

According to the 2014 Transport and Urban Decongestion Committee (TUDC), the gridlocks cost the city approximately Sh50 million daily in fuel consumption, lost productivity and pollution.

Away from the transport mess, residential and commercial places are choking with heaps of nauseating garbage – there is no proper waste collection plan yet the city generates 2,400 tonnes of solid waste a day, according to Nairobi Metropolitan Services.

Sewerage and drainage lines have collapsed. It is not unusual to come across burst raw sewer and clogged drainage systems. In many of the informal settlements, locals have resorted to flying toilets and open defecation since households are not connected sewer lines.

The overwhelming problems notwithstanding, dwellers expect the incoming governor to come up with practicable solutions.

Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara) Chief Executive Henry Ochieng said they are looking forward to working closely with the governor in order to identify priority issues and align them with those highlighted in the governor’s manifesto.

“Remember he ran on a platform of working with resident associations and he was passionate about that the need for collaboration so we expect him to keep his word by incorporating our representatives in his administration,” said Ochieng.

According to Ochieng, the problems the city is facing are as a result of county officials failing to recognise the role played by resident associations, which have a clear understanding of their pressing needs.

He expects his representatives to sit on crucial committees like that of planning saying: “We need this problem of uncontrolled buildings dealt with through the implementation of Nairobi Integrated Urban Development Master Plan that has laid down a proper roadmap.”

Ochieng hopes water, sanitation and environment will be on Sakaja’s list of priorities and expect an open-door policy to facility planning and problem-solving.

“Lastly, we look forward to quarterly governor’s roundtable meetings to take stock of what has been achieved and where we are heading,” added Ochieng.

When it comes to formulating, pushing and implementing his policies, it will not be easy sailing in the county assembly where his Kenya Kwanza Alliance is the minority party with 36 MCAs compared to Azimio la Umoja, which has 45 seats. Utawala and Kwa Reuben ward elections were postponed to August 23.

Yesterday Sakaja promised to restore the city’s dignity and provide opportunities for residents to expand their businesses.

Sakaja said his administration will work for all the people regardless of their political affiliations and pledged to reach out to all the elected leaders in of Nairobi county so that they can join hands to ensure effective service delivery.

“The campaign period has ended..., we made commitments and we must deliver on them,” he said when he met the newly elected Kenya Kwanza MCAs.