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How garbage has robbed Kakamega of its beauty

By Alexander Chagema | August 3rd 2021

Nobongo sewage system pipes leakage. Sewage flows into a stream where residents fetch water for human consumption. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The approach to Kakamega town from either side of the Kisumu-Webuye highway is scenic.

The lush green of the countryside gives way to the modern dual carriageway, beautiful street lighting and buildings.

The first notable landmark while entering the town from Webuye is the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology next to which is the modern Bukhumgu Stadium.

From the Kisumu side, one makes a turning to Mumias right at the location of the cream-coloured edifice that houses the governor’s office and other county offices.

The road towards Mumias is picturesque. It has well-built pedestrian walkways that preclude conflict for the right of way between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

But barely 30 metres off the Mumias Road is a sight out of sync with this beauty.

In an area adjacent to the Kakamega Mosque, there is a growing mound of plastic and other waste on which dogs, goats and street boys jostle for advantage.

The mound has become an eyesore. It blocks the junction of two footpaths that connect the Nabongo Scheme Housing Estate and Mumias Road on the one side and access to a nearby bakery and next to the yet-to-be-completed Kambi Somali market.

Despite the stench and buzz by blue flies which contribute to air pollution, Jua Kali artisans go about their businesses in silence, the only sound being the ringing from metal works.

Once in a while, they look up expectantly to establish whether passersby are potential customers.

Among them is Julius Odiel, the current chairman of the Kambi Somali Market Association.

While exposed to this environmental hazard, the artisans may not be aware that in its  Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Management 2019, the World Health Organisation noted that at least 800 people die every hour as a result of the dirty air they breathe and that globally, millions of people die every year due to air pollution.

“We have complained about this waste that is normally dumped here by sweepers employed to keep the streets clean. We do not understand why that should happen yet there is a dumpsite at Rosterman barely two kilometres away from here,” says Odiel.

Odiel is concerned that besides the danger posed by the waste, which includes waste from hospitals and broken bottles, such haphazard dumping has a negative effect on the environment.

He is particularly worried that the entire lower side of the town has no working public toilet since the only one constructed by the Western Water Services some years back has remained closed.

“Individuals pressed to answer a call of nature around here, which includes touts and travellers from the adjacent Mumias bus stage, Jua Kali artisans and mama mbogas in adjacent areas, do so in the open. With eateries around here, an open market where food is sold and coronavirus, that is an added health hazard,” says Odiel.

The residents’ environmental concerns do not just stop there. Dickson Chimwa, a resident of Nabongo Scheme, is particularly concerned about blocked sewer lines and compost heaps in the estates. 

“We appreciate efforts by the county government to keep the town clean, but there is too much waste strewn in the estates that is hardly collected,” says Chimwa. 

“There is an abandoned old sewage treatment plant at the edge of Nabongo Estate overgrown with waterweed. The main sewage pipe leaks and discharges into a stream below it that contaminates the water. Unfortunately, people downstream in Maraba Estate use the water,” he says.

Chimwa adds that “open manholes are not just a danger to those who move along the footpath running parallel to the disused sewage treatment, they add to environmental pollution. The county government should repair the broken pipes and rehabilitate the sewage treatment”.

Kakamega County Executive for Environment Kulati Wangia could not respond to questions raised by The Standard in regard to the situation.

Waste disposal, in particular plastics, is a major global concern that calls for pro-activeness and ingenuity on the part of county governments to dispose of safely.

Research has established that plastic makes up 80 per cent of marine debris.

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