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Blocked river poses risk to residents

Once a sailing and picnic site, the Nairobi River stretch that runs between Highrise and Kibera is now a smelly mess of murky water and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Langata and Kibera residents face the risk of diseases and sleepless nights, thanks to the mosquitoes that swarm their houses.

The residents say the parasites’ population usually peaks during the rains.

They have accused a construction company building apartments on the Highrise side of the dam of blocking the flow of the river. 

The problem started in August 2012 after Edderman Construction Company built a dyke on the banks of the river. The dyke was supposed to stabilise the ground that was waterlogged before construction began, said Highrise shopkeeper Christopher Kivivu.

“Because of this, movement of water in the river slowed down and mosquitoes came in their millions,” he said. 

Mr Kivivu said the sales for mosquito repellants at his shop have been constantly high since the construction.

“All the households in Highrise have made mosquito repellants a permanent item on their budgets. Mosquito coils are being bought in huge quantities,” he said. 

On the Kibera side of the dam, doctors and chemists said they have been prescribing malaria tablets to every other patient visiting them.

Mary Mageto who runs a clinic in Lindi in Kibera said: “A majority of the people walking into my clinic today have malaria, but two years ago I was treating more people for diarrhoea and other diseases.”

Documents provided to us by Edderman Construction company show the construction of the dyke and apartments was approved by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the then Nairobi City Council. 

These approvals were given despite the fact that the site is too near the river and on the lower side of it. 

A manager said the company was forced to seek permission from Nema to construct the dyke, adding that complaints about mosquitoes should be directed at Nema and not the firm. 

“In 2012, we drained the dam through an emergency spillway we had constructed to give us an allowance to construct the dyke and that is why there were no mosquitoes for the better part of 2012 and 2013,” he said.

He said Nema later ordered them to close the outlet so water could return to its original level.