Ngong municipality faces waste management crisis as Governor closes dumpsite

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Governor Ole Lenku of Kajiado County has closed the Ngong dumpsite unilaterally without offering an alternative in a clear breach of the law. This has led to a waste management crisis in the towns of Ngong, Embulbul, Kiserian, Matasia and Rongai, among others who depend on the dumpsite.

While closing the dumpsite, the Governor advised waste management practitioners to take the waste to Dandora dumpsite which is located in Nairobi County, around 40 kilometres away. This is also a breach of the constitution since waste management is a devolved function as Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya clearly states that County Governments are responsible for refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal.

There is also no provision in the constitution for a county to put a burden of waste management on another county. There have already been unconfirmed reports that waste practitioners from Ngong have been arrested for this transboundary of waste offence and are facing fines of over 50,000 Kenya Shillings. This closure of the dumpsite is also likely to triple the cost of waste management in the affected areas and also encourage illegal dumping. The closure also affects adversely the community of waste pickers who depend on the dumpsite for survival.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Ngong dumpsite has required closure as it is located in the middle of Ngong town and is a major health and environmental concern. Its unilateral closure without offering an alternative is however a bigger problem and shows a lack of forward planning by the county of Kajiado. This is not the first time calls for the closure of the dumpsite have been made. In 2016, Environment Principal Secretary, Mr Charles T. Sunkuli, visited the dumpsite and ordered National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to immediately start the process of decommissioning the dumpsite referring to it as ‘illegal’.

Environment Principal Secretary, Mr. Charles T. Sunkuli, tours Ngong Dumpsite

There have also been several petitions by Ngong town residents for the closure of the dumpsite. In 2017, UN-Habitat got involved by announcing a bid for a feasibility study on the decommissioning of the dumpsite and the construction of an integrated sustainable waste facility. This led to an Italian firm offering to partner with the County Government of Kajiado to relocate the dumpsite with the Governor also announcing the same in 2020. Several media houses however reported last year that the firm had pulled out of the partnership under unclear circumstances. Questions of irregular acquisition of land meant for the new dumpsite have however been raised showing a public participation failure by the county government.

This saga of the Ngong dumpsite is now calling into question the legal framework for commissioning and decommissioning of dumpsites as well as dumpsite financing in the country and will put a spotlight on NEMA and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Already, many dumpsites across the country suffer similar challenges. Dandora in Nairobi is perhaps the biggest headache for those involved. Deemed full in 2001, the dumpsite continues to operate ‘illegally’ and directly affects over 1 million people who live around the dump in Dandora, Mathare, Kariobangi, Baba Dogo and even Umoja and Buru Buru.

This is a developing story …

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