The Dandora Municipality Dump

The Dandora Municipal Waste Dumping Site, located to the East of Nairobi in Kenya. The site is about 8 kilometers away from the city centre and occupies about 30 acres of land. Surrounding the dump are the Kariobangi North and Korogocho informal settlements and the residential area of Dandora and Babadogo. Daily depositis of Over 2,000 tonnes of waste generated daily by approxiametly 3.5 million inhabitants of Nairobi is collected and disregarded in the dumpsite. Initially this dump was an old quarry that had been appointed a process of refilling , however forty years later has instead,been transformed into a rising mountain of waste. Dumping at the site is unrestricted and industrial, agricultural, domestic and medical wastes (including used syringes) are seen strewn all over the dumping site. Today birds, pigs and humans depend on this toxic mountain of waste for a source of income and food. Several studies have confirmed that elements including lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, zinc, nickel and copper prove to be hazardous to the health of inhabitants not only those scavenging in the dumps but to those residing nearby in informal settlements aswell as those nearby the river, in essence the toxic pertrusions of this dump has an impact on the overall foodchain. Over 900,000 people are directly affected by this dumping site. (, 2009)


Walking through the streets of the informal settlement of Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. One could not tell of any major issues, until one walks further ahead. Bombarded with a severe stench emmiting from the mountains of waste forming part of the Nairobi skyline. This colossal mountain of garbage, better known as the Dandora dumpsite .Home to about 850 tonnes of solid waste generated daily by its 3.5 million inhabitants in the city. The 30 acres site, which is one of the largest in Africa was once a quarry that the City Council of Nairobi sought to use temporarily (Ooko, 2013). But it still exists, forty years later, yet it was declared full. Dandora also holds the infamous distinction of being a member of the “dirty 30” club of the world’s most polluted sites. According to a 2007 report by the Blacksmith Institute, the festering eyesore on the outskirts of the city is one of the two most polluted sites on the continent, the other being a lead mine in Zambia (Reporter, 2008).

Children usually skip attending class in anticipation of the waste truck coming from the airport.The children,men and women consider this truck a bonus as it is usually a good source of ‘treats’. As the vehicle comes to a halt , waiting to enter Dandora, the older children aggressively mount themselves to the side of the truck to assess the degree of ‘goodies’ they will be fighting over today. The elder children and men quickly collect the unfinished salads, sandwiches, rice, yogurt cups and left over food from incoming flights. Younger children sort through waste tossed on the ground. Once the vehicle is inside the site, dozens of men fight over the haul. Baking under the Kenyan Sun with the stench of sour spoiled milk, the waste is either eaten on the spot or carefully repacked in Kenya Airways bags to be eaten later. An occasional fight is not unusual soon after the truck has arrived,the pickers are defensive over the most coveted items – a half-eaten brownie, an unopened container of yogurt. Mr. Inanga says Nairobi is prepared implement stronger management and relocate the dump, an approval is awaited from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Relocation of the dumpsite would have begun in 2012. However, Kenya Airports Authority – situated next to the new site – rejected the move for fear that it would attract birds and affect aircraft vision.ImageImage

Ms. Ruguru ,a local at the dump site and many others who come daily to sort and pick through the garbage for something profitable or edible, fear the day Dandora is closed down. They have come to depend on this dump for their survival and income. “If this site moves then I will move with it,” says Ms. Ruguru (Conrad, 2012). “I came early to get valuable items, plastics, glass and scrape metal to sell to recycling companies,” says 28 year old Mary Waithira(Ooko, 2013).Her visions are unforeseenly shattered when sharp objects pierce her naked hands. Just like most workers on the site, she sorts waste without gloves amongst heaps of broken glass, rusty tins, hospital needles and surgical razor blades .Thus making Mary aswell as hundreds of other scavengers vulnerable to injuries and infections. In a 2012 report calledTrash and Tragedy – by Concern Worldwide and other organizations fighting world poverty. Suggested that there could be a high occurence of health complications caused directly from the dump. It noted that cases of cancer, anaemia, hypertension, frailty, miscarriages, kidney problems, and nervous system disorders, were reported in discussions with people at the dumpsite.The nearby Nairobi River absorbs these harmful pollutants from the site and puts Nairobi residents using the water for cleaning, bathing and agricultural purposes at serious risk. The river’s waters appear to be a dark brown close to black pigment and garbage emitting from the Dandora dump floats on the surface. A UNEP 2007 report on Environmental Pollution and Public Health Impacts of Dandora Dumpsite, noted that about half of the children living or schooling near the area had respiratory ailments and blood poisoning from heavy metals like lead (Ooko, 2013). “Improper management of solid waste is a key contributor to environmental degradation and associated health hazards across African cities, “says Patrick Amimo, Consultant at Kenya’s Mazingira Institute (Ooko, 2013). According to the 2011 UN World Urbanization Prospects, half of Africa’s population will likely live in urban centres by 2035. “So ignoring the waste problem will undermine the continent’s chances of achieving the millennium development goals,” warns Amimo.Image


More than 200,000 residents, mainly from surrounding informal settlements, resist attempts aimed at closing the dumpsite. “Employment in this city is hard to come by and this has been our job for years. What will happen to our families and the elderly with no one to turn to?” mourns Damaris Wairimu, a mother of two children who depends on the dump.

“This dumpsite changed my life. I used to engage in criminal activities, but the pigs I rear and waste sorted here, gave me a clean and alternative source of income. Going back to my old life would be unbearable”, says 32 year old Samuel Goko. (Ooko, 2013).Dr. Leah Oyakee, the director of Environment at the Nairobi city council explain that the associated risks of the dumpsite outweigh any of the benefits that could possibly be gained by it. She continues to explain how millions of Nairobi residents’ lives are at risk from the harmful effects of the colossal dump.Twelve years old Priscilla grew up in one of Africa’s largest dumpsites. Her blood is now charged with lead.”Every time the dump spews a large cloud of smoke, I start coughing,” says Priscilla, whose Saint John school in Korogocho slum is often shrouded in a cloud of thick noxious fumes(, 2010) .Priscilla’s blood lead level is 19.9 microgrammes per decilitre, which is twice the international norm.Image

“Electronic waste contains a lot of lead,mercury and cadmium which can cause multiple toxic problems” said Njoroge Kimani, a biochemist who authored a report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).Children can get lead in their blood from inhaling the fumes, from picking objects from the ground, from the dust off the wastes on vegetables.”We already have evidence of Africa generally being used as a dump site for electronic waste with very heavy metals in them,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told reporters recently. He said dumping was often carried out under the guise of schemes claiming to donate second-hand computers to Africa. Up to a quarter of the ‘donations’ are in fact unusable and are subsequently dumped in the receiving country.

According to UNEP, globally between 20-50 million metric tonnes of waste are produced each year, majority of this waste finds its way to the African continent disguised as chartable donations. Nigeria is affected by e-waste more than any other African country, however this problem is spreading through Africa. Foreign countries are exploiting the environmental instruments in Nairobi


A study carried out by Dimba reveals that 10%-20% of the computers from the United States or the United Kingdom sent to Kenya each year -are unusable. Particular NGOS are in the process of funding the shipment of unusable electronics back to the donor countries to combat the hazardous dumping. However this slow process might cost Kenya much more than the donation given.


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