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Garbage pain grows as dumping tops green-collar crimes


Illegal movement and dumping of waste is the highest reported environmental crime, a new survey showed, underling the challenges facing counties nationwide.

In 2017, a total of 384 crimes were reported to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) out of which 253 or 66 per cent were related to illegal movement and dumping of waste—according to the Economic Survey 2018.

Though waste management is a devolved function spearheaded by county governments, most of them are unable to cope, partly due to illegal dumping and ever-rising population pressure.

This perhaps explains why there is litter dotting every inch of estates and back alleys of the country’s major towns, leaving residents in urban centres at risk of disease outbreaks.

“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.

Despite the existence of laws and policies guiding waste management, weak implementation and poor practices have led to towns and cities being overwhelmed by their own waste, consequently affecting public health and the environment.

The national environment regulator says most towns and cities have inefficient waste collection and disposal systems.

“For instance, a study done for Nairobi indicates that about 30-40 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 generated is collected and disposed at Giotto Dumpsite, 18 per cent is recovered and the rest accumulate in the environment” Nema says.

Waste transportation is largely rudimentary, using open trucks, hand carts and donkey carts among others. These poor transportation modes have led to littering, making waste an eye-sore, particularly plastics which have been banned.

According to the Economic Survey 2018, air and soil pollution have also become significant among reported environmental crimes.

The number of reported air pollution crimes increased to 97 in 2017, up from 74 the previous year while those involving soil pollution doubled to 23 last year from 11 in 2016.

Reported cases of water pollution however dropped to 11 in 2017 from 17 the previous year.

The Environment ministry in 2016 launched guidelines for garbage collection by counties complete with a scorecard for self-regulation.

As part of the guidelines, counties are obliged 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 Coordination Act.

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

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

Over the years, waste management has been the mandate of the local authorities. However, most local authorities did not prioritise the establishment of proper waste management systems and hence allocated meagre resources for its management.

Further the councils lacked technical and institutional capacities to manage waste. This has led to the current poor state of waste management which includes indiscriminate dumping, uncollected waste and lack of waste segregation across the country.