Pollution of urban waterways in Nairobi : a case study of Mathare 4B village, Nairobi, Kenya.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Water Resource Management
Nairobi’s urban waterways have been exposed to extreme degradation as a result of uncontrolled urban development. Urbanisation rates have exceeded economic growth leading to an urbanisation of poverty associated with the proliferation of informal settlements. These settlements are characterised by poverty, inadequate sanitation and solid waste services, as well as insecure land tenure. These informal settlements have proliferated mainly along Nairobi’s waterways, exposing them to pollution. Pollution in the city has rendered the water in the entire Athi River basin non-potable and a significant health risk to all users.
The main aim of this research was to investigate why and how residents of informal settlements interact with urban waterways to help inform the development of sustainable management practices. This included reviewing the role of relevant government agencies responsible for the management of urban waterways. The research adopted a case-study approach for in-depth analysis incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research methods.
The study revealed that residents of Mathare 4B, the case study area, have little sentimental attachment to urban waterways, leading to little or no incentive to care for them. It also revealed high microbial contamination associated with untreated or partially treated sewage effluent. The study established presence of youth groups in Mathare 4B which have attempted to protect the adjacent Mathare River through various means. However, these youth groups lacked adequate tools and protective gear to enable them conduct successful river management.
The current hierarchical management structure of Nairobi’s urban waterways has not been effective in addressing the pollution dilemma. The study therefore explored an alternative systems approach to managing waterways based on the panarchy framework. Two major gaps associated with the degradation of waterways were identified as: little or no engagement with the urban communities, and a rigid, ineffective, hierarchical government management approach. The study thus recommended a ‘commoning’ of the urban waterways as one way of effectively engaging local communities in sustainable waterways’ management. The study also recommended that relevant government agencies play a facilitatory role by empowering urban communities to manage waterways at the settlements’ level. This represents one of the best chances for rehabilitating and sustainably managing Nairobi’s waterways.