Why Nairobi's ‘city in the sun’ dream remains elusive

Sunday January 7 2018

Uncollected cabbage

Uncollected cabbage at the Sunken parking lot in Nairobi CBD. The city is choking in garbage that has been left uncollected since the start of 2017 Christmas festivities. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

More by this Author

The difficulties faced by Nairobi residents in 2017 such as garbage collection problems, hawkers menace and poor drainage systems seem to have come back even stronger in 2018.

Various places in the capital city are choking with garbage that has been left uncollected since the start of Christmas festivities in December 2017.

The garbage is emitting a pungent smell and posing a health hazard to residents.

Just before the roundabout connecting Haile Selassie Avenue and Landhies Road and opposite Muthurwa Market lies a huge heap of garbage that has been an eyesore for the past week.

Hawkers and other small-scale traders go about their business, which some selling fruits and vegetables, oblivious of the health risks they are exposing themselves and their customers to.


Down the road heading to the Gikomba market the situation is more deplorable with handcart pullers, motorists and traders forced to wade through murky water.

As you go towards the market, street children can be seen rummaging through heaps of garbage next to the bridge separating areas around Machakos Country Bus and Gikomba market. Motorists splash mud and dirty water on pedestrians and wares.

Mr James Muriuki, who sells bags and shoes, says dumping site has been there since he set up camp. “We are used to the garbage now. The county has been clearing it at least once a week but it has not done so since the start of the year,” he said.

The situation was exacerbated by the showers experienced in the city two days ago.


Nairobi River is also feeling the pinch of neglect with garbage choking the river.

Sewage from Muthurwa market and Machakos Country Bus station flows into the river.

Just opposite at the river bank, eateries are teeming with customers.

Mama Abi, who sells household items on the river’s banks, knows the risks posed by the polluted water but says she has nowhere else to sell her wares.

“I have fallen sick several times because of the foul smell coming from the river until I got used to it,” she says.

She blames traders, especially those from hotels and eateries around the city, of choking the river with waste illegally being dumped at night.

Governor Mike Sonko has accused hotels of illegal dumping.


From the roundabout along Hail Selassie Avenue down to Muthurwa Market hawkers occupy half of the road.

The situation is so dire that vehicles can only use a single lane.

This is despite the directive by Governor Sonko that the hawkers operate only from 2pm.

His pledge to move them from the central business district to the backstreets of the city is also yet to be fulfilled.

Traffic mess, especially by matatus, is also back.

Despite the elimination of double parking and picking up of passengers at undesignated spots, the congestion at the Railways terminus is getting out of hand with some vehicles forced to disobey traffic rules to leave the stage after picking passengers.