Nairobi, the once City in the Sun, can be painfully unforgiving for thousands of residents who pour into the central business district daily. They are not only greeted with a cacophony of noise from yelling matatu touts, discourteous motorists blind to traffic lights, lurking pickpockets and uncouth cart pushers, but the fear of plunging into gaping manholes.
Being in the city is simply hazardous! The manholes are leaving many people with serious injuries and damaged vehicles. The situation has been compounded by the return of the “street men”, who are stealing the manhole covers to feed an illegal thriving business.
Attempts to fill the manholes with broken plywood pieces and metallic objects to act as temporary covers by concerned residents is not helping the situation. Residents lament that whenever one is hurt by the gapping manholes, they do not know who to sue.
Nairobi County Transport executive Mohammed Abdullahi,however, says they have tried on several occasions to cover the holes but the lids keep getting stolen by metal scrap dealers.
“Theft of the metal, such as gully covers, from the roads is a serious challenge to us but we are doing everything possible to contain the situation,” he said. He, however, says that they have started a new scheme to stamp out metal thefts on the city roads by replacing the vandalised metal covers with plastic ones.
Abdullahi says the city is losing a lot of money as a result of the theft. “Just this year alone, we have installed 918 gully covers at a cost of Sh10,450 each. The plastic covers help because they have no resale value as replacements for metal covers which have been stolen,” he says.
The new materials will weigh about three-quarters less than the existing covers, which can weigh in excess of 140 kilogrammes. Stolen gully manhole covers are a big problem in the city because it causes a threat to road users especially cyclists and pedestrians at night and they also damage vehicles if they hit the open gully.