River pollution in Kenya has become one of the major negative effects that have greatly contributed to global warming and climate change. Major rivers dissecting urban centres across the country are chocked with sewer and solid waste discharges from households and industries, which are released with the notion that rivers can clean themselves. According to the Water Organisation Report 2021, with Kenya's population of around 50 million, 41 per cent of Kenyans, mostly in rural areas, still rely on rivers and streams as their main source of water. In this respect, residents of Migori County have raised an alarm about the never-ending pollution of the River Migori, a major source of water for Migori municipalities and its environs. Atito Ochieng, a town dweller, says that individuals living upstream in urban areas and municipalities continue to immensely pollute the River Migori, making its water unusable both for domestic use and for animals downstream. 'River Migori and Nyasare continue to be polluted by solid waste generated by human activities that render the precious waters that pass through Migori municipality unusable for the town dwellers,' lamented Ochieng. Ochieng says that there is a lot of waste, like pampers, plastic bags and bottles, kitchen waste from town hotels, and oil leaks from car washing spots, making the rivers Migori and Nyasare harmful. 'We are urging the four county municipalities in Migori to come up with effective mechanisms on how to prevent river and stream pollution in our major towns of Awendo, Rongo, Migori, and Kehancha,' said Ochieng. Migori has in recent weeks experienced an outbreak of cholera, although the disease has not been attributed directly to the polluted waters of the Migori River. However, Ochieng explained that it was important to safeguard the waters to ensure the county does not experience outbreaks of opportunistic diseases like cholera, bilharzia, and typhoid. With the state of river pollution becoming worse, some local residents of Migori town have decided to form community groups that embrace environmental conservation. Peris Achieng, the chairperson of the Aroso Community Environmental Initiative, notes that they decided to take the initiative of cleaning up the streams that channel water to the River Migori with the aim of taking responsibility and enlightening residents on the importance of environmental care. She acknowledges that if the community can take the first step in environmental conservation, society can be a better place for everyone to live. 'We use simple tools like spades, folks, and jembes to clean up and unclog the stream, and my plea to the local community is to use whatever they have at their disposal to conserve our environment,' notes Achieng. Achieng, however, stresses that although their initiative is not a permanent solution to addressing river pollution, she is optimistic that the county government and environmental actors will continue to help in the conservation of the streams and rivers. Her advice to Migori residents is to ensure that they support, take responsibility for, and fully participate in the environmental conservation of rivers and streams for the sake of future generations. However, Migori County Chief Officer for Environment, Natural Resources, Climate Change, and Disaster Management, Mr. Chacha Mwikwabe, affirmed that plans were underway to sensitise residents on proper waste disposal, river conservation, and management aimed at protecting the environment. Mwikwabe disclosed that the county government has been changing its approach to encourage collaboration, inclusivity, and consultative effort instead of using force to address environmental conservation. The officer urged the county residents to always utilise the collection bins designated in various points of the town to minimise waste dumps that always find their way to the River Migori. Mwikwabe also pinpointed that environmental conservation is a collective responsibility, and there was a need to join hands and stick to the alternative provided in addressing waste disposal into rivers that causes irreversible damage to the environment. He said that the county municipality will continue to improve infrastructure in urban towns to address drainage systems and waste management disposal. One of the commitments of the Nairobi Declaration in the just concluded Africa Climate Summit (ACS) 2023 was endorsing investments in urban infrastructure through upgrading informal settlements and slum areas to build climate-resilient cities and urban centres. Similarly, Migori County Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Mr. Tom Togo, emphasised that one of the major problems Migori municipalities are facing is the lack of a proper wastewater management system. He underscored that with the ever-increasing demand for housing in Migori town, there was a likelihood that some wastewater from households could end up in rivers, which may pollute them even further. Togo affirmed that the responsibility of environmental bodies like NEMA was to ensure the environment was conserved. He, however, encouraged the residents to take sole responsibility for being self-disciplined by not partaking in environmental pollution.
Source: Kenya News Agency