The controversial landfill by the national government in Gikono village of Maragua in Murang’a County is 60 percent complete despite strong resistance from residents and their leaders.
The Sh1 billion project which is being done under the Nairobi Metropolitan Service Improvement Programme (Namsip) has been marred by controversy since its inception, with Senator Irungu Kang’ata, Maragua MP Mary Waithira and Kimorori MCA Amos Murigi leading locals to block the project citing health hazards.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, whose ministry is supervising the project, at one time issued a directive temporarily stopping the project to give room for public participation.
This led to Murang’a leaders and some locals being taken on a benchmarking tour in South Africa and Tanzania.
But the benchmarking tours hardened the leaders’ and the community’s stand against the project. They claimed it was not viable at the current site, saying it required to be constructed far away from the locals to save them from bad odour and diseases that would come along with the landfill.
The residents who visited a sanitary landfill in Tanzania and in South Africa drew a picture of troubled locals living near the dumpsites, claiming that after interrogating them, they reported that two patients go to the hospital on daily basis complaining of effects of the garbage and water-related problems.
They also said that there were litigations over the same.
Mr James Mwangi, one of the locals who went for the benchmarking said the South African landfill sits in 1,000 acres of land and is built in a valley two kilometres away yet the people still complain of its effects, yet the one being built at Gikono will sit on a 50-acre piece of land, 200 meters away from the locals.
“If people from South Africa are affected by the landfill which is located in a valley two kilometres away, what about our landfill which will only sits on a 50-acre piece of land and 200 meters away from the people who use water from boreholes? No matter how necessary the project is, it should not be constructed at a place where people live,” Mr Mwangi said.
His sentiments were echoed by the Kimorori MCA who visited the landfills both in Tanzania and South Africa, saying they were told by experts that they were contemplating doing away with the dumpsites owing to their environmental effects on the people living around them.
AWAY FROM PEOPLE
“No matter how we want proper management of our garbage, the landfill must be constructed away from our people to avert danger. The county government of Murang’a has no capacity to manage the garbage, which also complicates the matter,” Mr Murigi said.
At the same time, Ms Waithira, the Maragua MP, said she will petition the National Assembly proposing that the landfill be relocated away from Gikono village to a more expansive piece of land either in Del Monte or Kakuzi farms whose leases have expired.
“From our findings, the landfill is best suited for areas where there are no people living around the proposed sites and since the leaseholds of Del Monte and Kakuzi have expired, the government should look for 100 acres to construct the landfill,” she said.
The MP said she will mobilise locals to oppose the project should the government ignore their opinion over the project, claiming that the sanitary landfill will affect future generations.
However, the Murang’a County Environment Executive Cecilia Kibe has maintained that the project is good for the region and that it has no health hazards.
He urged the leaders to stop politicising it.
Ms Kibe said the county has been grappling with the management of garbage, adding that in Murang’a alone, 300 tons of garbage are produced on a daily basis and that it is unfortunate that leaders are politicising the project.
“We were taken to South Africa with Senator Irungu Kang’ata, MPs Mary Waithira, Alice Wahome and Nduati Ngugi and after visiting the landfill in Durban, we endorsed it. We even held a post-mortem meeting in a Nairobi hotel. It is unfortunate that they have changed tune. I don’t know why but it could be there are some people who want to be taken abroad again and to receive the benefits that come along,” Ms Kibe said.
The CEC said the project is 60 percent complete since cells have been constructed and all excavations done.
She said the landfill is expected to be in use by May 2020.
But Ms Waithira told the Nation that she will consult her electorates to chat the forward after the government went ahead with the project “without putting into consideration the peoples’ views”.