Harmful Substances and Hazardous Waste in Kenya

UNEP Kenya Country Programme has worked closely with the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources to draw an intervention strategy for the management of the solid waste thrown inside the Nairobi River Ecosystem.

The solid waste management under the Nairobi River Basin Programme is the main entry point to tackle the issue of harmful substances and hazardous wastes.

Together with the City Council of Nairobi, University of Cape, Town, Kenyan universities (Nairobi, Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta) and the Japan based International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) of UNEP, an integrated solid waste management strategy has been developed for the City of Nairobi. This process involves capacity building for the technical people and policy makers.

The integrated solid waste management strategy will compliment the implementation of the solid waste management master plan currently being developed by Japan International Cooperation Agency


The Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) Strategy for the city of Nairobi
The Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy (ISWMS) process which commenced in March 2009 has since developed a Situational Analysis Report, providing detailed analysis on waste generation at source, transfer and disposal in the city.

Like any other city in the developing world, solid waste management has been a major challenge for the city of Nairobi. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publication, ‘City of Nairobi Environment Outlook Report’, waste generation in 2002 was 1530 metric tonnes per day. The current generation rate of garbage in Nairobi is over 3000 metric tonnes per day, and a significantly small proportion of this finds its way into the designated final destination at the Dandora dumpsite.

In 2007 UNEP commissioned a study titled: Environmental Pollution and Impact on Public Health – Implications of the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, Kenya. The findings of the study suggest that there are severe public health and environmental impacts attributed to the location of the dumping site. It reveals that the dumpsite is a serious health threat to children living in the neighborhood and the city’s environment in general. Therefore, there was the need for an immediate and comprehensive urban environmental management system, including integrated solid waste management (ISWM).

ISWM, whose objective is to institute a waste management system that allows reclamation of usable segments for reuse and recycling; by employing the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), demonstrates application of appropriate technology to convert waste into secondary materials.

It is now common knowledge that ISWMS incorporates all aspects of waste management chain from minimization, segregation, collection, transportation, reuse/recycle, resource recovery, treatment and final disposal. The strategy also focuses on expected health standards and aesthetic values of Nairobi City. The Strategy incorporates waste management measures and appropriate technologies needed to deliver an environmentally optimized waste management system without compromising economic and social considerations.

Stakeholders have agreed that the ISWMS document should be ‘locally’ owned and adopted by the government through the City Council of Nairobi (CCN). This is already being implemented through the introduction of colour-coded bins.

Success factors under the NRBP project include:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources have spearheaded efforts to restore the Nairobi River to its former state. Under the youth empowerment programme, Kazi kwa Vijana, young people make sure that no additional garbage is poured into the river, and also clear waste from river channels by hand.
  • Enforcement (through Prosecution) of Environmental laws and Regulations in Kenya e.g. provisional closure of the Dagoretti Slaughter house in 2008 and polluting factories and industries. But they were later opened.
  • In 2009 UNEP developed a comprehensive urban environmental management system that incorporates appropriate technologies needed to deliver an environmentally optimized waste management system without compromising economic and social considerations. These technologies include waste recycling into organic manure, turning waste into energy through biogas (renewable energy technology) and waste utilization for cooking (Incineration chamber for community cookers).
  • Removal of suspended solid waste in the river has encouraged the return of different life forms including frogs, fish, insects, and birds in the riverine brooks and pools along St. Mary school, University of Nairobi, the stretch between Museum Hill round-about and Globe Cinema. Additional Indicators of birds returning to the river is the presence of fish eating birds i.e the herons and king fishers. An Intricate food-web is being established in these sections with minimal pollution.

The river was at its cleanest at the turn of the century when Nairobi was a railway terminus. However the Nairobi river waters were used up to 1980's especially when water sports (sailing, swimming, and fishing) was common, particularly in Nairobi dam. Nairobi dam was commissioned in 1953 to provide emergency water supply to Nairobi. In the long term, it is hoped that the strategy will evolve into an environmental master-plan that will inspire river-frontage development within the city, improve the value of real estate and provide secure and a healthy environment for the next generation of Kenyans. The long term objective is to restore the water quality for domestic and recreational activities. However this will depend on the extent to which we are able to limit the amount of waste outfall into the river. This way, the city that is today referred to as the ‘city in the garbage’, will once again be known as the ‘city in the sun’. [UNEP In Kenya-Newsletter-JUNE 2010]


For more information please contact

Mr. Henry Ndede
Coordinator, UNEP-Kenya Country Programme
Tel: +254-20-762-4276
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