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Former legislator calls for speedy cleaning of polluted River Athi

Former Yatta Member of Parliament Francis Mwangangi has called on the government to move with haste and prioritize the cleaning up of the polluted River Athi.

Speaking while addressing members of the press at a Machakos hotel, Mwangangi decried the sorry state of the river pointing out that the polluted river, which serves the Thwake multi-purpose dam, poses a serious risk to humans and wildlife.

He lamented that the river has been used by industrial investors to discharge dangerous effluent, adding that a comprehensive report on cleaning the river that was presented in the year 2019 ought to be implemented.

“I am calling on the government to implement the report we did when in parliament, we made a very comprehensive report on cleaning the Athi River, I wonder when the Auditor General raises alarm that we are constructing an extension of the Ruai sewer at Thwake,” Mwangangi said.

“I welcome President Uhuru Kenyatta to Ukambani in his slated tour, I however call on the government to prioritize cleaning of river Athi,” added Mwangangi.

The former legislator also called on the government to put in place sustainable measures that will completely stop discharging of waste in the river. This comes barely a week after the Auditor General raised concern that the Thwake Dam, which draws its waters from River Athi, may turn out to be just another sewerage point since it may not be good for human consumption.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu sounded the alarm that the Water Ministry has not taken corrective measures to ensure water draining into the dam is safe.

She argues that the dam’s main supply will be Athi River whose main tributary is the Nairobi River – which studies have revealed to be polluted with heavy metals.

In September 2019, the County Assembly of Machakos called on both the county and national governments to undertake swift and stringent measures to salvage River Athi from wanton spillage of effluent into its waters.

Through a motion sponsored by Wiper nominated MCA Angela Munyasya, the legislators also wanted a detailed response from the County CEC Environment Naomi Mutie on the steps being taken to curb the harmful effects of pollution of the River Athi in Mavoko, Matungulu, Mwalala and other areas bordering the crucial water source.

The proposal was supported by Leader of Majority Mark Muendo who proposed a visit by the house to the various sites affected by the polluted river to compel relevant authorities to take decisive steps to reclaim the river which has been heavily polluted through effluent from industrial in addition, domestic wastes.

The Kinane Ward legislator cited greed for quick money by big factories together and rampant corruption by government officials as one of the leading causes for the ecological problem affecting the river, which is a lifeline for hundreds of people who live along its course.

Speaker Florence Mwangangi hailed the proposal and requested the assembly be more responsive to the ills bedeviling the once clean river by coming up with legislations to curb wanton spillage into its waters by unscrupulous traders.

She likened the fight in reclaiming the river to slaying the proverbial dragon but cautioned that shying away from taking a more proactive role in conserving water sources in the county will be a sure death knell for both residents and livestock not only in Machakos but all the way to the coast.

In April 2019, Machakos Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua launched a major drive to reclaim the river, which saw several factories closed down and their licenses revoked after they were found to be pouring effluent into River Athi.

The announcement followed a shocking expose from a local TV station that revealed the extent of pollution of Nairobi and Athi Rivers, which stunned the entire country.

Dr. Mutua while making the announcement said the move was not intended to drive away investors from the county but rather to safeguard the rivers and water sources that serve the people of the area.

The county boss cited Athi River which passes through the county as one of the most

polluted rivers in the country and warned that investments cannot be used as an excuse for destroying the river.

He said those living near the river have welcomed the move to clean it by supporting the county government in undertaking the exercise.

Recently, residents of Kithimani, Yatta Sub County blamed the National Environment

Management Authority (NEMA) for what they claimed was failure by the body in taking action in protecting River Athi, which is the main source of water for the area.

It was also alleged that soon after the onset of the long rains, thousands of dead fish were recently spotted floating in the river.

Locals said they fear unscrupulous traders may have already collected the fish and sold them to unsuspecting members of the public.

It is suspected the fish could have died as a result of excessive industrial waste being dumped into the river by big factories.

The Athi-Galana-Sabaki River is the second longest river in Kenya after the Tana River.

It has a total length of 390 km, and drains an area of 70, 000 square kilometres before spilling its waters into the Indian Ocean as the Galana River.

By Rachael Kilonzo

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