The KDI Kenyan team recently paid a visit to Dandora, Nairobi’s only legal dumpsite. We were invited by the Chief Environmental Officer in the Department of Environment of the City Council of Nairobi, which is responsible for solid waste management in the city. The Council had previously provided a garbage truck for our Clean Up event at KPSP04 on the 8th of September – now we wanted to see where the 600 bags of trash we collected would wind up.
Dandora covers an area of around 30 acres, is just 8km from the city centre and is surrounded by a number of formal and informal settlements. The dump is fed by City Council trucks and a number of private haulers – Mr. Wambuya who runs the dump on behalf of the Council explained that on average 80-100 trucks arrive per day, averaging around 10 tons each or about 1 million kilos of waste a day.
Mr. Wambua explained that day to day activities are concentrated on getting the trucks into Dandora with the help of caterpillar vehicles. Limited resources mean that contrary to what NEMA and others have been advocating for none of the trash is pre-sorted prior to arrival. Highly poisonous leachate from the dump drains into the ground and adjacent rivers while methane and other damaging gases are released into the atmosphere.
Despite the environmental challenge, Dandora has created many employment opportunities. According to a recent report about Dandora by Concern Worldwide entitled Trash and Tragedy “over 200,000 people have close economic and social ties with the dumpsite”. We observed that each truck that takes trash to the dump site had at least four workers. Daily, hundreds of children, young people, men, and women look for food scraps or anything they can sell as scrap in order to earn a living, despite the terrible health risks they’re exposed to. The dump has also turned into the home of some of the city’s street boys and girls who live together with the storks and pigs, which feed from the dump. According to Concern’s report “at least 53% of children and youth at the dumpsite have respiratory tract infections, coughs and asthma”.
Plans had been developed to transform the face of the dump site into a recreation site by capping the waste and planting trees and grass on top. But the tasks of stopping the infiltration of the leachate to ground as well as finding a suitable place to create a sanitary landfill in another area is a financial, legal, and political nightmare. The even more intractable problem of how to support safer, more sustainable livelihoods for those who depend on the dump remains.
Going to Dandora was a humbling experience and a reminder that even if we were to solve some of the problems of waste collection, such as sorting and transport in Kibera, there remain challenges to sustainable waste management at a much larger and more daunting scale for Nairobi.