The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has a bigger responsibility of stopping toxic flow and safeguarding the lives of Kenyans.
They say water is life. Many Kenyans depend on surface water and underground sources of water for their livelihoods. For instance, water for agriculture, water for drinking, water for fishing, water for recreation. Water is important in ensuring our wellbeing.
Polluted water is unsuitable for drinking, recreation, and agriculture. It is unfortunate that water pollution is a rising issue of concern in Kenya. This pollution is largely caused by agricultural runoff, disposal of solid waste, sewage especially in the urban areas and discharge of untreated industrial waste. Industrial waste can be toxic, corrosive or reactive.
If improperly managed, industrial waste can pose serious and dangerous health and environmental effects. For example, some of the industrial waste includes chemicals such as heavy metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons, petroleum products, salts and ions.
Many of these products can cause cancer and are toxic to humans, animals and plants.
Effects of water pollution are not only devastating to people but also to animals, fish and birds. Polluting the water sources with harmful chemicals means potential loss of livelihoods for the majority of Kenyans.
Water pollution affects agricultural productivity in many ways. Crop growth is sensitive to salinity, heavy metals and toxic compounds. Studies have confirmed the linkage between reduced yields and crop quality with industrially polluted water.
Leaching of agro-chemicals such as elements high in nitrogen result in issues like eutrophication. Eutrophication is the excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other water body, due to surface run-off, which causes a dense growth of plant life. Eutrophication of the lake significantly impacts fishing activities. It reduces fish population.
It is a shame that while Kenyans, our communities and families pay the price of toxic flow with their health, behind the polluted waters lies the industries that continue to profit whilst polluting our rivers and lakes. Not long ago it was reported that industries are releasing harmful chemicals in Nairobi river and now it is Lake Victoria.
There is a growing concern about pollution from large scale industrial agriculture that results in leaching of agro-chemicals in our water systems, the rivers, underground water, ponds and lakes.
The fishermen are losing their livelihoods. Consumers are being subjected to various risks. Kenyans can no longer trust what they eat. Industries are slowly killing Kenyans with chemicals. There are chemicals in our food, chemicals in our water and chemicals everywhere. All these pose serious health, economic and social challenges.
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and its pollution poses a very serious crisis in the East African region. Its pollution is not only an issue of concern to the local fishermen and farmers but also a regional issue.
Consumers in Nairobi need to be concerned. There is a need for everyone to be concerned about this emerging issue. The government needs to hold industries that are responsible for these pollution activities accountable to their actions.
The National Environment Management Authority has a bigger responsibility of safeguarding the lives of Kenyans. It needs to be proactive in enforcing existing environmental laws. We can no longer continue putting the lives of Kenyans before profits.
Water resources are important not only for the economic development of a country but also for the wellbeing of its people. Kenya’s government must enforce laws to protect its water resources and the wellbeing of Kenyans for social and economic prosperity.
Amos Wemanya, Greenpeace Africa Campaigner.