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Experts, locals and MPs differ on fate of Nairobi Dam

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By BERNARDINE MUTANU
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Mr Peter Muchina, a resident of Kibra for more than 30 years, has witnessed the Nairobi Dam change before his eyes.

The dam, a water reservoir of 98,000M³ and 88-acre “sponge” for runoff water, has lain derelict for at least 25 years, he said during an interview.

“Tourists used to come and relax in the area. We could swim and use the water for domestic purposes and we used to fish; but not anymore: water hyacinth and sewage from the slum took over,” he said.

Mr Muchina is seething as members of Parliament propose to decommission and fill it with earth in order to “save” Seefar apartments and other adjacent buildings earmarked for demolition by National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA).

Though it has been highlighted as a health hazard, residents and experts are against the idea of reclaiming it.

“It is just unfortunate that authorities looked on when the dam was getting destroyed. Now that the MPs want the dam to be decommissioned, they should tell us how the land is going to help people of Kibra, or do they want to grab it?” Mr Muchina posed.

MPs cannot take such a decision without consulting the community: “We want the dam to be rehabilitated to benefit us,” he said, a view held by Mr Patson Kamoni who has lived in the area since 1974.

According to residents, unscrupulous people have taken over parts of the land around the dam.

When Nation visited, children were playing on a ground reclaimed from the dam, next to some green houses and an establishment inside the dam.

Every time there is flooding in Nairobi, lives get lost and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.

And urban planners now warn that if the proposal by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee goes through, Nairobi residents should expect more disasters from floods.

“The dam is very important for flood control and if it is reclaimed, the situation will worsen,” Dr Lawrence Esho, an urban planner and the Head of Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technical University of Kenya, said.

In an interview, he said flooding would be more pronounced in the areas of Nairobi West, Madaraka and South C.

“In everything we do, let us leave riparian areas alone, it is unfortunate that buildings have to be demolished,” he said.

Although agreeing that demolition is a “brutal response” and that owners should be compensated, he said they cannot entirely be absolved from blame.

He said the government should first consider dealing with sewage from Kibra slums (which has caused sedimentation) and rehabilitating the dam.

“Their (MPs) logic is skewed because the city should be thinking about ways of controlling flooding and not compounding it,” he said and suggested construction of more dams up Nairobi River and her tributaries.

“Other capital cities have dams and locks and flood plains to control flooding in the cities. If the volume of water flowing in a channel is controlled, then flooding is effectively controlled,” he said, and called on politicians to give professionals a chance in urban planning and construction, but also urged authorities to rein in quacks in the industry.

Mr Patrick Analo Akivaga, an urban planning specialist working in the Nairobi City County, agrees.

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The dam is a natural water shade and a floodplain for the various rivers and streams in Nairobi and a “sponge” for runoff water whenever it rains, he argues.

“Any interference can cause a more severe environmental problem. It is a threat to the water aquifers which feed to bigger rivers and water bodies passing through the Nairobi base rocks. Instead, we should reclaim it because it is also in line with the recently completed Nairobi Integrated Urban Use Master Plan (NIUPLAN) prepared with support from JICA,” he told Nation.

Mr Akivaga said reclaiming the dam is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and filling it with earth will likely to lower Nairobi’s global ranking.

“Filling it will definitely lead to flooding of the adjacent developments and cause loss of creatures living in the water as well as plants. It is going to be a threat to other water resources within the city. Nairobi should strive to reclaim the dam as a good practice,” he said.

He proposed the removal of waste and prevention of further sedimentation.

“We must draw examples from other regions in the world on how to reclaim declining water catchment areas within urban spaces.”

According to him, urban water is very important and should be conserved at all costs, “Because it provides natural functions for sustainable urban development”.

Though he is not be an expert, Mr Henry Buruti, a Kibra resident, understands too well that it is dangerous to fill the dam with soil.

“It cannot work; it is too water-logged to hold anything on the ground even when it is reclaimed. So many people have sunk in the marshland never to be found, so many have died,” he said, and claimed that it has become a criminals’ paradise where bodies of people are thrown after they are killed elsewhere.

The soggy dam is full of water hyacinth, vegetation, plastics and sewage and gives a false impression that the soil is firm.

According to Mr Peter Ojuma, three tributaries of the Nairobi River pass through the dam, a situation that stirs the question of how the dam will be filled with soil.

“We have three rivers joining here, if the channels will be filled, then the obstruction of the water may be even more catastrophic,” he said.

Other residents say the dam and the channels should be cleared of waste and rehabilitated to allow water to pass through without any obstruction which is associated with the perennial flooding in the adjacent areas.

The dam has been part of Nairobi residents, with many narrating how dilapidation of the dam over the years has affected them negatively.

“I have lived in Kibera for more than 30 years. Many years ago, the Nairobi dam was so beneficial to us: it was clean and a tourist attraction,” Mr Buruti said.

He said the dam was a source of food to numerous residents since they would go fishing. “Right now, it is a big threat to us, it is too dangerous to go there,” he said.

Mr Muchina added that the dam is smelly and a health hazard because the stagnant water has attracted mosquitos and resulted to increased cases of waterborne diseases like typhoid and cholera.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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