Egerton University Seeks Nakuru County’s Assistance in Asbestos Waste Disposal

Nakuru, Kenya - Egerton University is engaging with the Nakuru County Government to address the challenge of disposing asbestos waste generated from its old structures undergoing renovations. The 84-year-old institution is undertaking this initiative in line with the guidelines of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and aims to involve the public in establishing a safe disposal site.

According to Kenya News Agency, The university's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Isaac Kibwage, mentioned that the discussions are focused on seeking the county's help to establish a permanent disposal pit for the hazardous material. This pit, to be sealed with concrete, is intended to prevent the asbestos from coming into contact with humans, animals, water, and the atmosphere. Despite Kenya banning the use of asbestos in 2006 due to health risks, it is still found in water piping systems and roofs across the country.

Professor Kibwage raised this concern during talks with Governor Susan Kihika regarding the establishment of the County Aggregation Industrial Park (CAIP) at the university's Ngongongeri farm within Njoro Sub-County. The proposed industrial park, a collaboration between the university, county, and national government, will span 200 acres, divided equally between the CAIP and an Export Processing Zone (EPZ).

Highlighting the health risks of asbestos, Professor Kibwage emphasized the need to train workers renovating old buildings on safe handling and disposal of asbestos materials. He assured that the university would adhere to all NEMA regulations in disposing of the waste.

Responding to these concerns, Mr. John Kihagi, County Executive Committee Member in charge of Lands, Housing, and Physical Planning, stated that the county is identifying areas where asbestos is still in use. He noted that Nakuru has already eliminated asbestos materials in over 70 percent of its public institutions and that Nawassco is replacing old asbestos water pipes.

Mr. Kihagi stressed the health hazards associated with improper handling of asbestos and the strict guidelines in place for its disposal. He mentioned the cultural challenge of Kenyans reusing removed asbestos for other constructions, underscoring the need for its burial in cement to prevent environmental contamination.

The WHO reports significant global exposure to asbestos, leading to numerous deaths annually from related complications. The international movement to ban asbestos began over four decades ago due to public health concerns in heavily affected countries.

In Kenya, asbestos roofing sheets continue to be used in private homes, government institutions, educational centers, and county offices, despite the known health risks, including increased lung cancer rates.