By MWAKWAYA RAYMOND
Understanding the petition of citizens is the basis for improving urban governance and citizen satisfaction during the process of urbanization.
Given City of Mombasa’s rapid growth and large scale in urbanization, it represents an interesting case of whether its County chiefs use data-driven urban management, mapping the land and exploring the petitions of citizens in its policies or programs.
What comes to mind is the way Mombasa County government is handling the Mwakirunge Dumpsite that has become not only dangerous to human habitation but also a security threat to planes landing or taking off at the Moi International Airport.
Residents of Mwakirunge Ward have been up in arms against the County government for ignoring their cries over the dumpsite’s open burning of solid waste which results into harmful toxins that can cause health complications.
“We are living on borrowed time with daily toxic doses of cancer, bronchitis, brain damage and heart problems among many others,” says a resident who pleaded for his name to remain anonymous.
The County’s failure to address citizens’ petition concerns such as household registration, illegal constructions, education, demolitions, city management, housing and traffic has left many a people disillusioned by authorities.
The public should be encouraged to express their demands through the network platform for enriching information resources. Moreover, the response mechanism should be established for the public opinions derived from Text Mining, to improve public satisfaction.
As if ‘used’ to the repugnant smell from the dumpsite, Jembe Katana (not his real name) is a bitter man with the continuous billowing of toxic fumes into the atmosphere that adversely impact negatively to his family.
“We live in a different world! Our own world that we the inhabitants only know but not the politicians at the Governor’s office or County Assembly’s Town Hall building,” he says adding that only God will protect them.
But another resident, Munga Anderson, has resigned to his fate and what he’s currently doing is to fend for his family of eight members because his earlier protests only landed on deaf ears of the County government.
“Complaining is no longer part of me. I have taught myself to lead an independent life and mind my own businesses after receiving zero-attention from those who we elected to represent us,” he says with a distant stare.
The dumpsite threats to human and environment knows no boundary as the about 2,000 tons of garbage continue to pile daily with those exposed to it also continue to suffer from lack of other social amenities.
Coast Newspaper’s spot-check discovered the majority of the residents use ‘cat method’ or flying toilets to relieve themselves when nature calls.
Again, we the advent of COVID 19, the ward lacks clean refresh water to keep the disease at bay as the residents’ appeal to the County government to drill water boreholes.
A scavenger at the dumpsite, Jennifer Solomon, who ekes her living by collecting plastic bottles want the Governor to carry out massive spraying of the area saying many families depending on it risk contracting known or unknown diseases.
The dumpsite, according to her, is home to an assortment of solid waste ranging from medical, offices and foodstuffs to industrial waste that can expose those operating there to various health hazards.
During a recent visit of Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials at the dumpsite, through the Unintentionally Produced Organic Pollutants (UPOPS) project, Mombasa partnered with the ministry to address waste management issues there.
The project implements the 3Rs – recycle, reuse and reclaim – also aims to develop strategies to deal with medical waste among other waste management challenges.
Visiting Mwakirunge Dumpsite’s 60 acre land which sits 28 km from the city’s central business district, the ministerial team came face-to-face with poverty-stricken families who scavenged to eke a living.
This revealed that the dumpsite is tucked in the middle of a sleepy village and that portends danger in terms of health complications for the residents.
Within the vicinity, the team observed women with children strapped on their backs going about scavenging oblivious of the lurking dangers they exposed themselves to amidst swarms of flies, choking smell and oncoming or outgoing cacophony of trucks.
According to the charity organization, Gap Kenya, there are more than 500 people living on the site, many of whom are women and children.
Faced with abject poverty most of these people are forced to eat food that is moldy, rotten and in most cases stinky thus risking their lives with food poisoning. In fact, health experts argue the dumpsite puts the children under the risk of contracting communicable diseases such as cholera, malaria or typhoid.
A survey carried out in 2015 indicated that the major diseases reported in the area include malaria (74.7%), diarrhea (56.5%), respiratory/infection (47%) and burns (39.8%).
The report further blamed the high levels of illiteracy which stand at approximately 41 per cent on the existence of the dumpsite and the high levels of poverty in the area.
Being Kenya’s oldest and second-largest city after Nairobi, the County has an estimated population of 1.5 million people on a land area of 295 km2 with a metropolitan region of approximately 3 million.
Currently, the City Port of Mombasa generates over 1,000 tons of waste daily and the County up to 2,200 tons with less than half of this dumped at Mwakirunge landfills.
There are more than 40 private firms that collect garbage from residential areas and dump the waste at undesignated spots in the CBD and along reserve roads in some residential areas.
Due to inefficiency at its Environment and Waste Management Department, the County has been battling the problem of uncollected garbage that at times has piled on designated spots, roadsides, residential and public areas.
Contacted for comments, the Ward MCA Feddis Mbura’s prayer is for the County government to construct public toilets and fence the dumpsite.
“As the area MCA, I am working closely with the local administration so that we can jointly address some of the challenges facing the locals,” she says.
The ward boss also wants the County government to install mobile container clinics to address the challenge of health in the area.
Already, she has voiced her concerns to the County Assembly and is optimistic it will look into the problems facing her people.
So frustrated with the previous MCA (2013), the voters opted to vote for an independent candidate in the 2017 general election rather than the fronted ODM or Jubilee aspirants.
To deal with COVID 19, Ms Mbura pleads to the County government to deliver face masks and sanitizers to Mwakirunge area so as to combat the spread of the disease among the poor of the poorest there.
“These items are out of reach to many my people and something must be done to address it,” she says.
Of late, the dumpsite has increasingly being under pressure since the closure of the Kibarani Dumpsite which has been turned into a public park.
In 2015, Mombasa County announced plans to construct a recycling plant in an effort to deal with the growing mountains of garbage menace at the dumpsite.
However, an effort to get a comment from the CEC Environment and Waste Management on phone or physical visit to his Bima Tower office was fruitless.