By Mary Appophia
I am thinking about Nairobi County and the things that pop into my mind when I look at it from an environmental perspective.
I would summarize the state of the environment in Nairobi as the Libra scale but tilted. Meaning that there are some areas that have really good environmental quality (Lush, green, clean, low air pollution levels, acceptable noise levels etc).
And then there are other areas that have really poor environmental quality and they are not doing well at all. (High water, air and land pollution levels, little to no green spaces, poor to non-existent waste management systems etc).
And then there are the in between regions that seemingly try to balance out the other two. But their impact is not good enough to positively influence much. Maybe because they seem to be slowly but surely sliding towards the poor environmental quality side.
Think of the in between as having couple traces of green and a few trees that might or might not be cleared soon, a sewer system, that works sometimes but that is most often clogged with just about everything, solid waste that is strewn around (sometimes it gets cleared but most often it is just there and it keeps coming back). Air pollution isn’t as bad, often dependent on the weather (wet vs dry), traffic hours and waste burning hours. A new open garbage site that is slowly piling up (One person threw a banana at an impulse, another added a cigarette butt, two added plastic bottles and now everyone else keeps adding their waste on to that spot).
And then, there are the correlations. Between monetary wealth and environmental quality. Think of the rich as enjoying great environmental quality, the middle-income earners enjoying average environmental quality and the low income earners, as you guessed, are stuck with poor environmental quality.
So in summary, I would say that environmental inequalities are quite high in Nairobi County. This I would greatly attribute to rapidly growing populations coupled up with poor urban planning / unplanned settlements as well as exclusion of certain regions (Slow infrastructural development, inefficient systems and low delivery of services) and high poverty levels.
That said, I absolutely appreciate that we have public green spaces such as Uhuru Park, City Park, Jevanjee Gardens, and there is also Ngong forest, Arboretum, Nairobi National Park and neighboring Karura forest which is just minutes away from the capital city. There are also roadside green spaces as well as personal greening initiatives, whereby individuals create green spaces in their work and residence areas, all which collectively really go a long way in beautifying the city, absorbing carbon dioxide emissions and improving air quality.
I also appreciate the environmental restoration activities that we have seen recently, such as clean up of Nairobi River, rehabilitation of Michuki Memorial park, ongoing town clean ups, street lighting and road and sewerage infrastructural projects in Dandora and other activities under the Nairobi Regeneration and Beautification Programme, all which point towards a more environmentally friendly future for all in the county. Of course as long as these actions are consistent and the restored places maintained.
Still, there is still a whole lot to be done. The roads could for instance be a whole lot more friendlier to those on bicycles and those on foot. We can all stop throwing plastic bottles outside car windows or on open ground. There are also issues of indoor air pollution often resulting from cooking and lighting sources (Kerosene lamps and stoves, closed door use of charcoal jikos etc.) Demand for furniture products in the county is also high as is the demand for charcoal, timber and sand for construction activities. These are often harvested unsustainably and going forward, we should really think about how we can make the construction industry more sustainable. Pollution resulting from vehicles and dust particles is also a major problem across board as is the challenge of waste water management. So its still a long road ahead that will require concerted efforts by all and sundry.
What do other people think about the status of the environment in Nairobi county though? Well, let’s head over to this link and hear from an amazing lady, Carolyn Manga, a statistician who has lived in the county for quite sometime. ( https://ecohoods.wordpress.com/2020/10/05/what-are-the-main-environmental-issues-in-nairobi-county-_-a-youth-perceptive/ )