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We link scientific innovation to the benefit of every day people: climate adaptation, biochemistry, biotechnology

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Increasing Awareness on Good Water Quality

August 2, 2018

 

Clean water has many benefits of which the most important is reduction of diseases and ailments. Clean water also has important esthetic values because when we see clean environments we remember to preserve what is good. In a country like Kenya where tourism generated 120 billion shillings ($1.2 billion) to the economy in 2017, clean water is also a critical source of blue economy jobs (tourism, fishing and recreation).

 

https://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN1FS2BD-OZATP

 

Unfortunately, within Nairobi, many Kenyan cities and rural areas, the vast majority of residents, especially young residents, have never seen what a clean river or lake looks like. They have no mental model or awareness of what clean fresh water is. 

 

Let us start with a view of Athi River around the 14 Falls area in Thika

 

 

You can enjoy viewing more spectacular scenery along with information on the pollution challenges through this 2 minute film by Thoroughbred Films Production 

 

https://youtu.be/uFKiZCQEA_I

 

Now we can move to lessons learned from clean up efforts. The Nairobi River Basin has been a focal point for intervention efforts. The reason is not just that Nairobi is a capital city. The Nairobi River Basin is a geographical watershed with 10 major tributaries, including the Nairobi River itself. 

 

  1. Ruiru River

  2. Kamiti River

  3. Kasarani River (aka Gathara-ini)

  4. Ruaraka (aka Rui Ruaka)

  5. Karura River

  6. Gitathuru River (aka Getathuru)

  7. Mathare River

  8. Nairobi River (the main channel)

  9. Kirichwa

  10. Motoine-Ngong River

 

More details https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nairobi_River

 

The lessons learned regarding impediments to successful clean up are

 

  • Poor involvement of residents in riverside communities 

  • Lack of data and technical complexity of available data

  • Lack of enforcement to prevent littering and dumping of waste 

  • Corruption 

  • Lack of awareness of effective mechanisms for integrating waste as economic value 

 

https://www.pambazuka.org/land-environment/nairobi-river-basin-rehabilitation-and-restoration-succeeding-building-lessons-past

 

The challenge of downscaling technical data in order to enhance community awareness and involvement is not insurmountable. 

 

First is the need to inform the public that any garbage piled up anywhere that water (including rain) will flow is garbage that will end up in our fresh water systems. Think of pouring garbage into tap water as you are filling your glass to drink. Garbage on the streets does the same thing. Nature does not have a filter for human garbage and toxic chemicals. You end up drinking what you see littering the streets around you. We call this nonpoint source pollution because it comes from everywhere instead of a single location. 

 

https://www.in.gov/idem/nps/2368.htm

 

Second is an understanding of how garbage and chemicals in our water make us sick. We often think of obvious diseases like cholera. However, we can also get diseases like diabetes, obesity and cancer. Slow learning, slow growth and loss of fertility are additional problems. You can view this CSTI presentation on the chemicals found in our water systems that are linked to these diseases. 

 

Water Quality Issues in African Rivers  

 

You don't need to learn the chemicals. What you do need to learn is that by keeping garbage out of our water we can reduce and eliminate water related illnesses. 

 

A third point of intervention that can take place at the community level is waste value addition. By this we do not mean people should hoard garbage and try to sell it as if it were a scarce raw material. Garbage is worthless without value addition. The economic value and money comes from what you do with the garbage and not from the garbage itself. 

 

Organic matter (food, vegetable peelings etc) in houses can be used for homebiogas systems just like we are doing with sewage. The use and re-use of biological materials is what we call the bio-economy. 

 

Metals can be remanufactured and the industrial value of the metal waste itself is not high because it must first be purified before it can be re-used. Hence, nobody will get rich on waste metal because the way to get rich is by developing a supply chain that purifies the metal and sells it back to the mobile phone manufacturers or the computer manufacturers, etc. This type of activity is what we call circular economy.

 

Plastic and paper we can re-use if we keep the garbage clean. This means no food or oils or other garbage gets to touch our paper and plastic waste. If other garbage touches paper or plastic they cost more to purify which means manufacturers end up with less material and pay less because what they are getting is poor quality that cannot be used to make new things. Separation of waste and keeping separated waste clean is crucial for value addition of waste.

 

We can also change our habits and our thinking about how we manage waste. Leading cities across the world are becoming zero landfill communities. By banning landfills, we are forced to find alternative ways to deal with garbage and the production chains that turn waste into economic value start to emerge. Here are 5 cities that have transformed 

 

http://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/solid-approach-waste-how-5-cities-are-beating-pollution

 

While we work on effective systems for behavioural change at the city level and national level, there are community level activities that can make a positive impact. 

 

In Nairobi you can familiarize yourself with the Master Plan for the rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi River Basin. This is not just a report to be read, the activities listed are issues around which communities can mobilise (e.g. create awareness, stop dumping, improve landscaping and beautification). 

 

https://kenyariversandwaterresources.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/master-plan-for-nairobi-river-basin/

 

Universities across Kenya have staff that can advise communities on how to manage clean up efforts. 

 

University of Nairobi http://humananatomy.uonbi.ac.ke/node/1047

 

JKUAT 

http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/departments/warrec/center-represents-university-restoration-athi-river/

 

http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/students-demonstrate-innovative-prowess-kenya-water-week/

 

You can also send in recommendations on how to improve existing efforts such as resettlement and relocation of illegal structures. 

 

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001277382/cleaning-nairobi-river-needs-proactive-approach

 

https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/counties/Stalls-torn-down-as-Nairobi-River-cleanup-begins/4003142-4490912-view-asAMP-13u8cgmz/index.html

 

Remember the goal of clean up efforts is not to destroy anybody's life but rather to create cleaner, healthier and safer communities we can all enjoy. No one individual, institution, ministry, community group or company can solve the whole problem. We must come together with solutions and contributions that accelerate progress. 

 

Feel free to email suggestions on how to improve existing efforts to info@csti.or.ke 

 

 

 

 

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 CSTI - What inspires us:

 

We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners who believe that the scientific and technological knowledge we develop is a legacy trust we create for the community.

Some people are artists, others give inspirational speeches.  We deliver understanding that can be adapted to solve ecological and industrial problems.  The eagerness with which this understanding is received and used is what inspires us to do our work.

We  must treat the earth well. It was not given to us by our parents, it is loaned to us by our children.

Mtunze ardhi vyema. Hamkupewa na wazazi, bali mlikopeshwa na wazawa wenu. (Swahili)

 csti milestones: 

 

Sept 16, 1998:   Micro-Science kits were developed for schools and are still in use.

 

1997 to 1999:  Micro-Science kits were developed for schools and are still in use.

 

2010:  Conclusion of our Sakai Community Resilience to Drought project in which over US $300,000 total funding was leveraged to develop a replicable model for community resilience to drought.  The model was adopted by Kenya government. (See IISD website for additional details)

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