Data Hub

Counties on the spot as garbage dumping worsens


Illegal movement and dumping of waste worsened last year, new data shows, turning fresh focus on the lapses in garbage management by county administrators.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) registered some 328 cases of illegal movement and dumping of waste in 2018 — representing a 613 percent jump over the five years since 2014.

“A total of 527 crimes were reported to Nema in 2018, out of which 62.2percent were related to illegal movement or dumping of waste,” the Economic Survey 2019 said.

And in another development that is likely to be a big concern to health authorities, air pollution crimes continued to soar — coinciding with a rise in respiratory diseases such asthma.

The Economic Survey 2019 showed there were 156 air pollution crimes in 2018, which represent an 117 percent increase over the five years from 2014.

Coincidentally, the leading cause of morbidity in Kenya in 2018 were diseases of the respiratory system which accounted for 39.3 percent of the total disease incidence reported.

There were 21.8 million cases of respiratory diseases reported in 2018, up from 14.48 million the previous year, the survey shows.

Although waste management is a devolved function, most counties cannot cope, partly due to lack of capacity to monitor illegal dumping and handle the effects of ever-rising population pressure and informal settlements.

“With the urban population in Kenya estimated to be growing faster than that of the country’s general population, waste generation shall be a major challenge,” said Dr Blessing Mberu, a researcher at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), Nairobi, in a working paper, Urban Africa Risk Knowledge.

As a result, most urban areas have become littered with garbage — exposing the population to the risk of infections.

“Kenya has a growing human population and an increase in urbanisation. The urban centres have attracted a large population of informal settlement dwellers and the middle class.

“This urbanisation and increased affluence has led to increased waste generation and complexity of the waste streams. This trend is compounded by growing industrialisation of the Kenyan economy,” Nema says in its waste management strategy for counties.

Critics said county administrators are largely to blame for the mess for despite the existence of laws and policies guiding waste management, enforcement remained weak—leaving towns and cities choking under waste.

Besides poor law enforcement mechanisms, most towns in Kenya have inefficient waste collection and disposal systems.

“For instance, a study done for Nairobi indicates that about 30 to 40 per cent of the waste generated is not collected and less than 50 per cent of the population is served.

In Nakuru, it is estimated that 45 per cent of the waste produced is collected and disposed at Giotto dumpsite, 18 per cent is recovered and the rest accumulate in the environment,” Nema says.

Nairobi alone generates an estimated 3,000 tonnes of solid waste per day, according to APHRC. But only half of it is collected. The same applies to Mombasa, which according to Nema, generates 2,200 tonnes of solid waste everyday with only 65 per cent collected.

In an attempt to boost safety, the Environment ministry in 2016 launched guidelines for garbage collection by counties, complete with a scorecard for self-regulation.


As part of the guidelines, the devolved units are required to ensure that their waste collection areas are zoned, among other stipulated parameters, failure to which they shall attract penalties under the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act.

The self-regulation drive targets timely and regular collection of all solid wastes either through door-to-door collection or from centralised points in the counties.

The counties are also expected to ensure that all collected garbage is transported using Nema-licensed vehicles to the designated disposal sites.