Over 20 years ago, the famous Nairobi dam’s fresh waters and serene attracted tourists who made the surrounding areas a haven for activities. Unlike today, the dam is filled with vegetation and dirt, thanks to human activities upstream and downstream.
Located in High-rise ward, the Nairobi dam used to cover 356,179 square meters by 98,422 cubic meters, with tourists enjoying boat rides offered at a cheaper price.
The fading underground water, now covered with grass, sugarcane, banana, and arrowroots plantation leaves Steve Wandera, a resident of the area for 24 years, a disturbed man.
“It was a place where children used to play, visitors used to enjoy hiking, it is sad to even note how plastics are part of this mess” Laments Wandera.
Joyce, a resident of the area for close to 26 years, blames all this on human activities that are contributed by ignorance and poverty.
“We are so populated in Kibera and we don’t have values to protect the environment, tell me can this happen in other parts of the world” She questions.
But Mulei Kevin, a resident too, insists the growing population is the root cause. “When the population went up, that is the time people started throwing garbage in the dam. “
He confesses that it is difficult to control the behavior as some of them tend to be violent when approached.
The Fall of Nairobi Dam.
According to residents I have spoken to, the downfall of the dam started in 1998 when Kenya experienced an El Nino. The heavy rains, according to Wandera, forced garbage downstream thus blocking the drainage system.
“The water carried away everything including protective wires that were built to prevent any unwanted waste materials to flow into the Dam, hence destroying the drainage system of the dam,” Says Henry insisting no government official bothered to fix the mess.
Nyando Bridge is located on the border of Laini Saba, Lindi, and Silanga villages. The bridge is on a river that also ferries water to the dam. But one thing that captures my attention is how its surrounding environment is populated. Dwellers dump chuff into the river.
A group of youths that live within the area also confided that it is predictable to spot dumped corpses In the river, a situation that authorities have similarly ignored over time.
Mugumoini location chief Clement Ombati, where the dam is located, confirmed that residents have reported to his office cases of dumped fetuses, a situation that worsened during the covid19 period.
“Let me tell you, people here are difficult, I have gone many times with the police even during the rainy season but some don’t want to move. You even plead with them, unless now you apply some force which sometimes isn’t good” said the chief.
So unbothered are the residents that some have gone a step further and started farming in the dam. Linet Amagove, a farmer in the area for ten years now, says she has even employed two people on her farm which obviously lies on riparian land.
I started as a customer who used to buy arrowroots from those who were here a long time ago, I purchased land from someone within the filled dam” Said Amagove showing some pieces of arrowroots she just harvested.
Emmanuel Ochieng, a clinical officer at Nebtim Hospital, however, cautions residents against consuming food from the area.
“such areas always have dirt which contains mercury, when you plant arrowroots or vegetables, during their growth process they do absorb these heavy metals when a consumer uses such food he consumes the metals and this can lead to many complications like stomach problems and cancer”
His sentiments were echoed by Sakina Omar, a nutritionist at High-rise Undugu level 2 hospital.
“Arrowroots have minerals called iron, and mostly it creates blood in the body, on the dam or sewage you will get nitrogen and phosphorus, now when nitrogen and phosphorus are on the high level they kill iron, now instead of arrowroots benefiting the body, they end affecting the blood which may cause cancer.” says Omar.
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