Tackling garbage problem key to slums upgrade

Basic sanitation remains a key challenge to millions of Kenyans living in informal settlements. With at least 56 percent of the country’s population living in such settlements, according to projections by the UN-Habitat, providing basic amenities to them is a key part of the ongoing national dialogue on inclusive and sustainable growth.

These dwellings are characterised by poor infrastructure and services which worsens the pain of pollution, poverty, and disease.

Experience from the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (Kisip) — an initiative by the government with support from the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA) and the Agence Française de Development (AFD) — shows that waste management remains a major hindrance to improving living conditions.

For example, an experiment with dustbins in several settlements has not been successful due to vandalism, theft, and non-collection, creating mini-dumpsites. This applies to other temporal collection points. They are quickly converted into dumpsites due to irregular collection.

Although some progress has been realised in certain areas such as upgrade of roads and footpaths; drainage systems; water connections, installing high-mast security flood lights, and ablution blocks, garbage remains a problem.

A study by Kisip showed that there is limited separation and sorting of waste at the household level. The existing collection systems are inadequate. As a result, substantial quantities of solid waste remain uncollected. Waste collection and transportation is mainly done by organised groups, community-based organisation (CBOs), and individuals with limited capacity and supporting infrastructure. Recovery of recyclable items like plastics, papers, glass and metals is done by an increasing number of informal groups who sell to middlemen.

Disease vectors

Most counties lack well managed disposal sites. In cases where disposal sites are far from the settlements, the CBOs have challenges accessing the sites and illegally dump wastes on roads and river beds. Open burning of waste is common at dumpsites adding to air pollution. In the absence of regular rubbish collection, solid waste regularly blocks drainages leading to flooding and burst sewers.

Blocked drainages also serve as breeding sites for mosquitos and other disease vectors. The impacts of poor solid waste management can be especially acute in informal settlements located in flood-prone areas.

Solving the garbage problem is therefore a critical intervention in improving the standards of living in informal settlements. While adequate refuse collection can help to reduce flood risks, it is imperative to maintain drainage systems in informal settlements and holistically manage downstream and upstream wastes.

As a bonus improving solid waste management has additional benefits in mitigating climate change by substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Pixabay


This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.