Health & Fitness

Unlocking traffic jams in Nairobi


Traffic jam in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In medicine, the word stasis denotes a cessation of movement. As designed, human bodies consist of multiple organs supported and nourished by continuous movement of substrates, nutrients and excrements via body fluids. Wherever stasis occurs in human physiology, necrosis or decay is sure to follow.

The opposite word, homeostatis, denotes a state of equilibrium. Looked at in this lens, cities can be likened to living bodies consisting of complex structures with intricate functions. For them to stay healthy, a balance between what is old and what is new must be achieved: a homeostasis of sorts.

For Nairobi, its degeneration into the current decay has been gradual, but the last decade in particular has seen an acceleration. Several reasons have been cited, top of which is overpopulation with lack of reciprocal infrastructure growth. The latter is attributed to lack of revenue, an oxymoron since high populations should typically yield high revenues.

To summarise the cause of our problems, there is stasis across many areas, with things simply not moving as designed. Revenue collection, employee productivity, infrastructure growth, adherence to regulations have all stopped moving. To jolt this, the transfer of county functions to the NMA was undertaken. The verdict on the sagacity of the decision is still out there. Still, a few visible changes are noted in its few weeks of operation. My quick tour of parts of the city show signs of activity.

The CBD beautification and pedestrian accommodation is on track. Decongestion by transferring some matatu termini to Ngara and Park Road stages is a wise decision. What was overlooked is improvement of pedestrian walkways to these stages particularly via the lower old Pangani-Ngara belt, security lights for safety are needed.

No doubt the upgrade and reclamation of grabbed sewerage facilities will boost access to clean water and sanitation services. Unclogging previously blocked storm drainages will yield better flow of rainwater saving roads from potholes.

Cleaning and rehabilitation of Nairobi river and riverbanks is ongoing especially around the Grogon area, but must include relocation of the open-air garages. Garage waste dumping into the river is counterproductive and negative to the river's ecosystem restoration.

There is also a notable increase in the green spaces reclamation by the Environment and Forestry ministry. This provides much needed greenery and respite for sore city eyes, creating ample places for family recreation places and birdlife promotion. Reclaiming grabbed estate playgrounds should now follow.

Garbage collection is slightly improved. Roadside garbage dumps on Juja Road have disappeared. What should follow is city cleaning department staff resuming their old neighbourhood cleaning rounds. Painting of county owned houses would be another quick win.

The most needed improvement is unlocking gridlocks from Nairobi roads. It was nice to see erstwhile blocked roads now flowing with traffic at the Ngara roundabout.

The new “sheriff” must also open up grabbed alleys and access roads in the estates.