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UNEP LAUNCHES SECOND PHASE OF ITS PLAN TO HALT POLLUTION OF NAIROBI RIVERS

Nairobi, 5 February 2001 - The second phase of the Nairobi River Basin Project is today being launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This is part of a series of steps aimed at restoring to the city of Nairobi its riverine system as a source of clean water and as a means of ensuring a healthy environment for its residents.

Raw sewage, solid waste and untreated industrial effluent have, to a large extent, destroyed Nairobi's rivers as a resource of clean water. The situation has worsened in the last few years on account of rapid urban population growth and industrialization.

In early 1999, UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, expressed concern over the ever-increasing levels of pollution in Nairobi's rivers. As a result, the UNEP Regional Office for Africa started work on the Nairobi Initiative which has now evolved into the Nairobi River Basin Project.

The first phase of the project, which was funded by UNEP, assessed the impact of pollution on Nairobi's rivers; reviewed the relevant legislation; built stakeholder management capacity through workshops and community involvement; prepared sustainable community and education programmes and implemented a strong publicity campaign.

This second phase will concentrate on the Mtoine/Ngong River upstream of the Nairobi Dam, the Dam itself and downstream to the confluence with Athi River. A pilot project aimed at improving infrastructure, sanitation, waste management and a reduction in pollution levels of the river will be implemented and covers an area of some 200 households.

Other segments include: building two wetlands to reverse the depletion of groundwater and to change the quality of surface water entering the Dam; building water hyacinth purification ponds and building workshops to demonstrate the management and potential uses of the water hyacinth for income-generating projects by the adjacent communities.

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Local authorities, government ministries, UNEP and other United Nations agencies, primarily the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), non-governmental organizations and local communities are working together to meet the challenges.

This phase of the project has been made possible by assistance from the Government of Belgium and the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). There are also strong indications that assistance will be forthcoming from other concerned governments and philanthrophic agencies.

The Nairobi River Basin Project website will be launched today, 5 February, via both the World Wide Web and WorldSpace's new digital audio and multi-media service (no dial up access required).

For more information, please contact: Valerie Leakey, Regional Office for Africa, UNEP. P.O. Box 30552; tel.: (254-2) 624276; fax: 623928; email: valerie.leakey@unep.org

For the website, see: www.unep.org/nairobi_river

UNEP News Release 01/12