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Construction of landfill project set to resume

Located on a 50-acre site that cost Sh155 million, with an additional 20 acres set to be secured for a buffer zone at Mitumbiri, Murang’a county, the Nairobi waste management project is being funded by the World Bank and the government

Plans are back on track to have a completion deadline for an environmental project to be built in Murang’a met after Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia suspended the process last month.

According to CS Macharia, public participation is critical for any project to succeed. He was responding to unfolding debate kicked off by sections of leaders and members of the community opposed to the construction of the landfill near Mitumbiri.

This was after debate flared up on the location of the site amid health and environmental impact concerns. An alarmed Macharia intervened after it emerged sufficient engagement of key stakeholders before construction started had not taken place.

“This can taint the image of CS Macharia—who also hails from Murang’a — if complaints by a cross section of leaders and members of the community are not addressed,” said a politician who pleaded anonymity.

The Nairobi Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP) is being speraheaded by the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development’ State Department for Housing and Urban Development.

The project is under Macharia’s docket and is being funded jointly by the World Bank (US$300 million – Sh30 billion) with support of $30 million (Sh3 billion) from the Kenya government. It is located on a 50-acre site that cost Sh155 million, with an additional 20 acres set to be secured for a buffer zone.

“Murang’a people are lucky and should take advantage of the World Bank project. The donor hates conflicts and can’t invest in an atmosphere of controversy,” said Mogaka Mabeya, director of administration at Transport ministry. He stressed the need to meet the completion deadline by mid next year.

“There is no way the State can push for implementation of a project that can harm its own citizens,” he said. This month has seen enthusiastic and apprehensive members of the county assembly (MCAs) gather in Nairobi, for a sensitisation forum where the decision by Macharia was praised by the politicians who confessed they had no clue about the project.

“Many leaders and members of the local community have been sceptical,” said Nduati Kariuki, speaker of the county assembly. Multi-billion-shilling projects in the county have previously been characterised by opposition after leaders and residents felt such projects do not benefit the locals.

“Doubts have been raised about the real reasons for locating the project in Murang’a and not elsewhere. There were no health, environmental reasons or benefits the project will bring to us,” said Kariuki.

Principal secretary, Charles Hinga Mwaura has burnt mid night oil trying to kickstart the project after a directive by the CS, with the World Bank getting cagey over fears the project may not be completed on time.

Mwaura, formerly based in South Africa and with a passion for the environment, has been instrumental in bringing back the process. The government downplayed the fears and misgivings that have haunted the project even before construction work started.

Hinga in a speech read on his behalf by the Secretary Administration, State Department of Housing and Urban development, Florence Amoit, who was accompanied by a host of State officials, drummed up support for the project. The State had brought in foreign consultants to explain landfill projects in other countries.

Dr Eng Florian Kolsch said the world has gone the sanitary landfill way as the best practice in solid waste management. He gave an example of Tanzania with five active landfills and two in process.

“After decommissioning, a landfill can be put into public use like golf course or a public park,” he said. Despite assurances that landfills are a better way of managing waste than dump sites (such as Dandora dump site in Nairobi), there is concern that residents will suffer from the smells that could be generated from the site and menace from rats.

According to Mabeya, the landfill is not intended to encourage other counties to dump waste in there.“There was no ill-motive when the Murang’a was picked,” he added.

Queries have been raised about the selection of Murang’a as a site instead of locating it in one of the other four counties that comprise the Nairobi Metropolitan zone of Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nairobi.

The NaMSIP project coordinator, Benjamin Njenga, who has been on the firing line, soldiers on amid the suspicion and misgivings as regards the landfill and its economic benefits.

Njenga says the landfill has a lifespan of 20 years meant to handle at least 250 tonnes of waste generated in the county daily. Although there is a challenge of transportation, Njenga promises to consult the World Bank to support purchase of vehicles. After the expiry period, the project will be decommissioned.

“The economic benefit is beyond the landfill project. Rural towns coming up in Kiambu and Murang’a are already benefiting from improved roads, sewerage, and other infrastructure,” said Njenga.

Murang’a Deputy County Cmmissioner, Titus Macharia pleaded with politicians to spare the project, whose benefits, he said, include efforts by the country government to ensure proper legislation for business purposes.

“Deals can be clinched with other counties to be charged some cash to deliver waste at the landfill to be managed by Murang’a County government,” says Macharia. The Executive in charge of the environment, Cecilia Kibe, says an urgent solution is needed to deal with waste.

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