Barely a day in office, the new Sherrif in town, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) director -general Mohamed Badi, hit the ground running with the first assignment being tackling the garbage menace.
National Youth Service trucks and bulldozers roared in Shauri Moyo and Majengo clearing mounds of garbage piled up on roads in the settlements.
Major-General Badi said already, 250 tons of garbage had been collected from areas including Burma and Muthurwa markets as well as Dandora.
“Garbage collection is one of the priority projects which we are going to focus on and ensure are implemented to their fruitful end,” said Maj-Gen Badi while addressing journalists during the handover of the Nairobi regeneration programme to NMS last Friday.
But even as the new body continues to tackle the garbage problem heaps of garbage lie haphazardly across Nairobi.
Grogon is still reeling under a repugnant stench. A huge mountain of garbage right in front of mechanics.
“This heap has been here for the past six months. It used to be cleared twice every week, but now, it has become an eyesore also emitting such a powerful stench,” Mr Rashid Ochieng, a mechanic said.
Sunken Parking along Aga Khan Walk looks like an official dump site. Moi Avenue continues to sag under the heavy weight of waste. Garbage bins across most streets in the Central Business District are still full with waste overflowing.
Nevertheless, different players agree that the solution to Nairobi's garbage problem lies in the implementation of the Nairobi City County Solid Waste Management Act of 2015.
Environment CEC Larry Wambua said the county government is in the process of implementing the provisions of the Act, enforcing subsidiary legislation under the Environmental Management Coordination Act as well as developing an environment policy.
He pointed out that a Solid Waste Management Action Plan had been developed by a national multi-agency team and is expected to be implemented by mid-year.
Mr Wambua stated that more solutions could lie in the implementation of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Master Plan that the county did with Japanese agency, Jica, in 2010. The plan was hand picked as the grand solution to the garbage menace in the city.
The master plan entails eight programmes including waste collection and transportation; 3Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — as well as intermediate treatment; final disposal; organisational restructuring and human resources; legal and institutional reform; financial management; private sector involvement promotion; and community participation promotion.
“This Sustainable Action Plan is based on the circular economy concept whereby we envision zero waste. All actors in the waste value chain are involved to regenerate and reuse waste intentionally or by design,” said the CEC.
Environmentalist Isaac Kalua agreed with the concept saying the plan, if fully implemented, will greatly reduce irresponsible waste disposal.
“The county government should have a plan of creating a business model out of the garbage collection industry. Recycling companies should be allowed to collect the waste themselves from dump sites and not from middlemen. If not so, they then should be allowed to work directly with garbage collectors. This will create more profit for everyone involved,” Mr Kalua said.
The Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations CEO Henry Ochieng avers that the solution to perennial garbage problem in Nairobi lies in full implementation of the environmental policies already with the county government.
He said that for instance, the Solid Waste Management Act provides for how waste is to be handled in Nairobi complete with a legal framework. Together with Environmental Management Coordination Act, the policies have enforcement provisions which have more punitive charges of more than Sh100,000 designed to curb illegal waste disposal than the previous city by-laws.
“We were part of the team that pushed for the adoption of the Act by the Nairobi County Assembly. It provides a legal framework on how waste management should be done in a structured way,” Mr Ochieng said.
Nevertheless, he faulted the county’s inability to implement the many policies that are entrenched in its by-laws regarding the handling of solid waste.
On his part, Mr Kalua proposed that huge penalties should be imposed on offenders found dumping waste in the environment.
“Inconsistency by the county officials responsible is a big challenge. A few years back, anyone who was found dumping any waste in town would be arrested. But as we can see now, this habit stopped, and the results are evident,” the environmentalist said.
He further called for more awareness to be created on waste separation before disposal right from the household level.
“Kenyans have to know that it is very crucial to separate solid, plastic and organic waste in their households. This way, they can greatly assist in ensuring proper disposal of the same. They could also sell such waste to the recycling companies and make money for themselves,” he stated.
Mr Ochieng challenged Nairobi residents to change the culture of dumping waste everywhere without thinking of the implications of their acts.
“In as much as we urge the government to do something, we call on residents to be responsible everywhere. They need to ensure that the environment in their neighbourhoods is clean,” he said.
One only hopes to see that the sickening state of Nairobi, the regional hub and throbbing business heartbeat, is quickly rescued with a toothless watchdog in the name of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
More than 10 days have passed since the Authority gave City Hall officials a two-day ultimatum to clear mounds of garbage that had littered the capital city.
The environmental watchdog further gave the officials a week to file a report on status of compliance, or face prosecution.
However, no action has been taken as had been promised with the environment regulator only succeeding in feeding Nairobi residents lip service. But that is NEMA for you.
From far, it looks like a lioness who has just given birth and is ready to pounce on any predator. But on a closer look, you realise it is just an old, toothless dog struggling to even bark and with a stamp of a foot, runs away screaming with the tail coiled firmly between the legs.