The Dandora Municipal waste dumping site is Nairobi’s main (and only official) solid waste disposal site. The former quarry comprises a 30 acre expanse located to the east of Nairobi, about 8 kilometers from the city centre.
The dumpsite is surrounded by both working class estates like Kariobangi North, Dandora and Babadogo as well the informal settlement of Korogocho.
On a daily basis, the City of Nairobi generates over 3,000 tonnes of waste. Approximately 2,000 tonnes are collected and dumped at Dandora. A mix of industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and other wastes are found scattered at the site due to the ‘unrestricted’ dumping process.
At the dumpsite, local youths sort plastics, cloth and papers. They are part of about 3000 people employed by the site which in effect supports over 5000 people. Each youth can make up to KES 300 per day (3 USD). The youths claim that they would want a good system where companies can buy sorted garbage from them. However, they have a fear for ‘order’ because it is likely to be corruption-ridden.
It is speculated that the garbage situation in Nairobi is run by cartels that control the collection of garbage in different zones of the city. There are also various groups that are believed to control parts of the dumpsite.
The dumpsite itself faces a number of challenges. It has gradually grown into a mountain of waste. The County Government has long talked about looking for alternatives as the dumpsite continues to approach capacity. The proposed alternatives – Mavoko/Athi and Thika/Kiambu have both been rejected, the former due to being in close proximity to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the latter due to failure by the Nairobi and Kiambu County Governments to reach an agreement.
The dumpsite has only one functional entrance, and due to this poor access, trucks have to drive into the site in reverse as they go to dump waste. This slows down the dumping process, causing long queues and minimizing the number of trips a collection truck can make in a day. In addition, during the rainy season, the access road becomes muddy and occasionally blocked – further slowing down the process.
The result of some of these problems has been illegal roadside dumping as well as burning of waste by residents. Rivers, forests, and other environmentally sensitive areas have also suffered from the ensuing fallout as business people and residents use them for waste disposal.
Stakeholders have made several proposals for the improvement or upgrading of the site, including construction of a perimeter wall, clearing access to the dumpsite, providing tools for the youth who work at the dumpsite to make sorting easier and improved co-ordination of the collection structure within and outside the dumpsite.
The Nairobi County Government has attempted to boost the collection of garbage by purchasing garbage trucks and allocating them to different zones in an effort to supplement the work of contracted private providers (there are also cases of rivalries among collectors). A joint task force between Nairobi County, National Youth Service and local youths aimed at improving accessibility to Dandora area was also initiated in December 2015. The taskforce was able to make some significant but temporary progress in improving the access route and clearing garbage thereby slightly speeding up the process.
There is, however, a need for a long term approach to the problems afflicting the Dandora dumpsite as well as analysis of other alternatives. Garbage collection is a continuous exercise that calls for/demands a well-managed process. Some of the considerations and proposals that have been made include the potential for professionally recycling garbage, as well as setting up an e-waste disposal factory.
Taking into consideration the livelihoods and/or welfare of those working at the dumpsite and neighbouring land uses what is the most sustainable way that waste can be managed? What would be the best long term solution towards managing Nairobi’s waste?
*just before publishing the Nairobi County Government explained some of its limitations in garbage collection during a public forum with business people. In 1980, the now defunct City Council had 300 garbage trucks; as at August 2016 the Nairobi County Government has only 48 functional garbage trucks.