The move to shut down illegal dumpsites in Nairobi County is welcome and long overdue.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), which recently took over the running of the county from elected officials, says it has identified 80 such sites that it will close down soon.
These illegal landfills have been created by garbage cartels. It is critical that dumpsites are regulated, their number kept to a minimum and that they are managed properly to protect the environment and health.
Open dumpsites are a major source of greenhouse gases and the pollution risks getting worse in line with rapid urbanisation, according to the UN-Habitat.
The organisation recommends that authorities monitor and control hazards associated with landfills. These include dangerous gases like nitrous oxides, windblown litter, vermin, flies and site fires.
Proliferation of illegal dumpsites, therefore, means that such safety measures are not achievable as the cartels are only interested in making quick cash and not public safety.
Besides the environmental and health risks, unregulated dumping also hurts property values in the affected zones as it makes them less attractive.
NMS director-general Mohamed Badi says since coming into office in March, his administration had identified 110 illegal dumping areas and cleared 82 of solid waste with enforcement for closure ongoing.
The move follows a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to NMS to crack down on all illegal dumpsites in the capital as well as gazette legal solid waste dumpsites for both public and private collectors.
The NMS boss said they were designating 35 official solid waste collection points.
The National Youth Service was contracted by NMS to help in garbage collection across the 85 wards in the county.
Nairobi’s main dumpsite in Dandora is more than three times full, holding more than 1.8 million tonnes of solid waste against its 500,000-tonne capacity.
Unlicensed garbage collection in Nairobi is a multibillion-shilling industry controlled by cartels who include elected leaders.
The cartels have formed parallel illegal dumping sites across the county where they dispose of solid waste after collecting them from residents who pay for the service.