Hope for cleaner Nairobi River as Ruto launches commission

President William Ruto during the official launch of the Nairobi River Commission which will oversee cleanup and rehabilitation of the river on Feb 23, 2023. [PCS]

The launch of the Nairobi River Commission by President William Ruto brings hope that massive pollution of the once-pristine source of water could soon be a thing of the past. 

The commission is part of President Ruto's grand plan to improve the city's blue-green infrastructure, ensuring that the people of Nairobi can enjoy the natural beauty of the river.

The commission's mandate is to provide strategic direction, oversight and coordination of efforts towards the rehabilitation of Nairobi's rivers.

Its focus will be on the Nairobi River Basin, which is about 2,500 square kilometres and is the main source of water for Nairobi. The commission will work towards ensuring that the rivers are restored to their former state, where they can support plant and animal life, as well as provide recreational opportunities.

The Nairobi River was once a source of water, food, and recreation for the residents of Nairobi. However, years of pollution have turned it into a dumping ground for sewage, industrial effluent, and solid waste, making it unsuitable for any beneficial use. The launch of the commission is expected to reverse this trend, making the river clean and safe for human use once again.

“The government of Kenya under the ministry of environment is partnering with the County of Nairobi to hire 12,770 young people and women who are going to participate in the cleaning of the river and planting of trees,” said President William Ruto while speaking at Korokocho yesterday.

The work is expected to commence on March 15. The clean-up will involve removal of solid waste and sewage from the river, as well as the implementation of measures to prevent further pollution.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja stated that those working on the project will do so four days a week in a project that aims to make it economically rewarding to have business enterprises along the rivers.

“All over the world, people look for land along rivers but in Kenya people run away from rivers because it stinks. We can change that. It’s an economic opportunity,” said Sakaja.

The governor further added that with the ongoing affordable housing project earmarked in different areas of Nairobi, efforts to clean the river will only be actualized if investment is made in having a working sewerage system.

The governor stated that the county needs Sh4.5 billion in the short term, 6 billion in the medium term and a total of 19 billion in 5 years to put in place the sewerage system.

“In line with the housing programme, we want to add half a million houses within Nairobi without a sewerage system. It’s going to be a disaster,” said Sakaja.

President Ruto stated that plans are already underway through a partnership with African Development Bank to establish the sewerage system funded with Sh22 billion.

Calling Nairobi River, a sewer, Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jnr lauded the president and the Nairobi County for the initiative.

“This water that is black in Korogocho is green in Machakos and black in Makueni. The innocent people in Machakos and Makueni are farming and the food comes back to Nairobi. We are consuming poison,” said Kilonzo Jnr.

The Makueni governor further called on owners of industries polluting the rivers to be held accountable and pay, a thing that president Ruto supported.

“If stealing a piece of metal from SGR is an economic crime, even polluting a river should be an economic crime,” said Mutula.