How garbage robbed Kakamega of her beauty
The approach to Kakamega town from either side of the Kisumu-Webuye highway is scenic.
The lush green of the countryside gives way to the modern two-lane road, beautiful street lighting and buildings.
The first notable landmark on entering the city from Webuye is the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, next to which is the modern Bukhumgu Stadium.
On the Kisumu side, we take a detour through Mumias just at the site of the cream-colored building that houses the governor’s office and other county offices.
The road to Mumias is scenic. It has well-constructed pedestrian bridges that prevent priority conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
But barely 30 meters from Mumias Road, it is a spectacle out of step with this beauty.
In an area adjacent to the Kakamega Mosque, there is a growing mound of plastic and other trash that dogs, goats and street boys scramble for to take advantage of.
The mound has become an eyesore. It blocks the junction of two paths that connect the Nabongo Scheme and Mumias Road subdivision on one side and access to a bakery near and next to the Kambi Somali market, which has not yet been completed.
Despite the stench and buzz of blue flies which contribute to air pollution, the artisans of Jua Kali go about their business in silence, the only noise being the jingling of ironwork.
Every now and then, they look expectantly to determine if passers-by are potential customers.
Among them is Julius Odiel, the current president of the Kambi Somali Market Association.
Despite being exposed to this environmental risk, artisans may not be aware that in its 2019 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Management, the World Health Organization noted that at least 800 people die every hour from the dirty air they breathe and millions of people around the world die from air pollution every year.
“We have complained about this waste which is normally dumped here by sweepers employed to keep the streets clean. We don’t understand why this should happen, but there is a landfill in Rosterman just two kilometers from here, ”says Odiel.
Odiel is concerned that besides the danger posed by waste, which includes hospital waste and broken bottles, such a random spill has a negative effect on the environment.
He is particularly concerned that the entire lower town does not have a working public toilet as the only one built by Western Water Services a few years ago has remained closed.
“Individuals in a hurry to answer a call of nature here, which includes touts and travelers from the adjacent Mumias bus stop, artisans from Jua Kali and mama mbogas in adjacent areas, do so at the outdoors. With restaurants around here, an open market where food is sold and the coronavirus, it’s an additional health risk, ”says Odiel.
The environmental concerns of the inhabitants do not stop there. Dickson Chimwa, a resident of Nabongo Scheme, is particularly concerned about blocked sewer lines and compost piles in the fields.
“We appreciate the efforts of the county government to keep the city clean, but there is too much garbage strewn in the areas that are barely collected,” Chimwa explains.
“There is an old abandoned wastewater treatment plant on the edge of the Nabongo estate overgrown with algae. The main sewer pipe leaks and drains into a stream below which contaminates the water. Unfortunately, people downstream from the Maraba estate use the water, ”he says.
Chimwa adds that “the open gazes are not only a danger for those who move along the path parallel to the disused sewage treatment, they add to the pollution of the environment. The county government should fix broken pipes and rehabilitate the sewage treatment.
Kakamega County Environmental Executive Kulati Wangia was unable to respond to questions raised by The Standard regarding the situation.
Disposal of waste, especially plastics, is a major global concern that calls for proactivity and ingenuity on the part of county governments to dispose of safely.
Research has established that plastic constitutes 80% of marine debris.