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Murang’a multi-billion landfill project halted

Wangui Githugo @Wango_G

Controversial construction of upcoming Mitubiri sanitary landfill has been halted by the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban development until proper public consultations are carried out. In an advert published in a local daily by the ministry, Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the project has generated adverse publicity due to inadequate consultations.

“Consequently, I have directed that the development of this project stops with immediate effect until widespread public consultations and participation have been undertaken, and a consensus agreed among key stakeholders,” an advert placed in the dailies read.

The Sh1.2 billion sanitary landfill to be set up on a 50 acre land, and with a capacity to handle 500 tonnes of waste daily, has caused an uproar among residents who claim they were not involved, and raised fears that the landfill may contaminate their water sources.

Critics of the project including area senator Irungu Kang’ata who has openly contested the project saying it is an insult for Murang’a to supply water to Nairobi only to be prized with a waste management scheme.

However, officials from the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP) have defended the project clarifying that the landfill does not pose any health hazards. Speaking during a stakeholders meeting at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, NaMSIP Director Benjamin Njenga urged politicians to desist from politicising the project, which has made progress towards meeting its objective and is at 76 per cent completion.

“The implementation of the project will not negatively impact residents, and will instead move the country to an industrialisation middle income status and strengthen urban services and infrastructure. Leaders should cease from politicising the project without sufficient information on how it will be run,” said Njenga.

The landfill in Murang’a county, which was expected to take 12 months to constructed, will sort waste from Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Murang’a counties. The project has received backing by the Murang’a county government, which has assured residents that the project would have no negative implications on residents.

Also speaking at the stakeholders workshop, Murang’a deputy governor, Maina Kamau cited the landfill will provide large scale metropolitan infrastructure in solid waste, transport and sewerage services. “Talks are being held between the county and the Nairobi Metropolitan Development teams to ensure all issues are disclosed.

Full disclosure will help residents understand the projects’s implication,” said Kamau. To ensure that the project is properly mainstreamed in the county government operation for long-term sustainability, a joint steering committee consisting of NaMSIP and four county executive committee members was set up.

Stakeholders agreed that modern sanitary landfills needed to be developed to ensure proper waste disposal without negative environmental impact. “Solid waste management should be explored in all counties to avert potential menace as populations grow in those areas,” said Njenga.

The decision by the ministry of Transport threatens to delay completion of the project by more months following NaMSIP announcement that the World Bank will not finance all projects that will not have been completed by May 30, 2019.

In May 2012, the World Bank initially approved Sh33.5billion (US$330 million), but after depreciation of the dollar, it currently stands at Sh29.9billion (US$294million) to fund NaMSIP, which was developed to help steer Kenya towards the path of becoming a middle-income country.

Among the major issues identified from existing actual dumpsites are: environmental hazards, proximity to urban areas, closeness to surface water, poor management and unfixed boundaries. It is not an uncommon phenomenon to get most dumpsites in the middle of major towns where most are actually surrounded by houses.

The engineers said that, although some of the dumpsites are fenced, most have no clear boundaries between them and nearby land, leading to uncontrolled site extensions, where waste is disposed all around instead of being designated in one place, a situation, that increases land consumption and contamination.

Further, Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030, recognised the need to develop solid waste management systems in Nairobi county, as well as Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Thika and Eldoret. Most towns have inefficient waste management systems.

For instance, a study done by Habitat found that 30-40 per cent of waste generated in Nairobi is not collected and that only 50 per cent of the population is served. The National Solid Waste Management Strategy developed by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) reported that currently, Nairobi generates 2400 tonnes of waste per day.

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