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Friday, December 9, 2016
Kenya: church appeals to UN over toxic dumpsite in Nairobi
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 A Catholic community on Friday made a passionate appeal to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to pressurize the Kenyan government to remove Dandora Waste Dumping site, situated near a crowded slum. "Our cry as inter-religious leaders serving in these slums areas of Korogocho and Dandora in Nairobi's densely populated eastern region to the Government over the issue-removal of dump site has gone unheard; hence we now appeal to you, UNEP to come to our risqué", said Comboni Father Daniel Moschetti, priest in charge of Saint John's Catholic Parish. Addressing a huge gathering in the parish hall, which included the UN Under Secretary and UNEP executive Director, Mr Achim Steiner, Fr Daniel observed that "many times we have been given many promises but no actual action has been taken over this life-threatening issue-the removal of the dumpsite". The UNEP team, which was joined by scores of human rights and church leaders had gathered there to release a UNEP/St John Catholic Church, Korogocho study repot on: Environmental Pollution and Impact on public Health: Implications of the Dandora Municipal Dumping Site in Nairobi, Kenya . The report has concluded among other things, that about 50% of children examined who live and school near the dumping site has respiratory ailments and blood lead levels equal to or exceeding internationally accepted toxic levels (10ug/dl of blood), while 30% had the size and staining abnormalities of their red blood cells, confirming high exposure to heavy metal poisoning. Doctor Njoroge Kimani, who led the team of medical doctors on the study, said 400 people, among them 40 children, were incorporated in the study and whose blood/urine was examined. Father Daniel said that St John's Catholic Church and school, which are located near the dump site, had treated more than 9,000 people a year for the last three years, for respiratory problems at its dispensary. In his address, Mr Steiner said: "the children of Dandora, Kenya and Africa and the world deserve better than this. We can no longer afford rubbish solutions to the waste management crisis faced in far too many cities especially in the developing world." "It is clear that urgent action is needed to reduce the health and environmental hazards so that children and adults can go about their daily lives without fear of being poisoned and without damage to nearby river systems", added the UNEP official. The Dandora site may pose some special challenges for the city of Nairobi and Kenya as a nation. But it is also a mirror to the condition of rubbish sites across many parts of Africa and other urban centres of the developing world, Mr. Steiner said. Observing that many of the local people depended on the dumpsite for their daily livelihood, Dr Njoroge said the challenge is to minimize indeed to halt the level of hazardous materials coming to the tip in the first place and better treatment of toxic and medical wastes before they arrive. "We also need to deliver safe and sustainable conditions for the people working on, and living near, the site," he said. "For the foreseeable future, growing amounts of waste may be inevitable but we should learn how to better assist poor people, who depend on this waste and promote the recycling and reuse of this waste as a safer economic opportunity," he said. The 30-acre Dandora dumping site receives an estimated 2,000 tonnes of rubbish every day, including plastics, rubber and lead paint-treated wood, generated by some 4.5 million people living in Nairobi, the report states. The study has also found evidence of the presence of hazardous waste, such as chemical and hospital waste, on the dump site. Every day scores of people, including children, from the nearby slums and low-income residential areas use the dump to find food, recyclables and other valuables they can sell as a source of income, at the same time inhaling noxious fumes from routine waste burning and methane fires. The waste from the dump site often also finds its way into the Nairobi River that runs just metres away from the dumpsite, polluting water use by local residents and farmers downstream, the church/UNEP study has also revealed.
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