Kenya’s Environment Ministry and private sector partners on March 9th launched a new program to restore the Athi River basin, which is being rapidly depleted due to industrial pollution and human encroachment.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu said $25 million USD would be invested to reclaim the country’s second largest river.
“The Athi River restoration program focuses on pollution control to enhance access to clean water among riparian communities,” Wakhunghu said. “State agencies and industries have partnered in this clean up exercise.”
Millions of people in Nairobi and surrounding counties depend on the Athi for drinking water and irrigation. But riparian communities have suffered from with communicable diseases caused by high pollution levels in the river.
“The Athi River catchment is heavily polluted due to uncontrolled discharge of industrial waste. Agricultural chemicals have also worsened toxicity in the fresh water body,” Wakhungu said.
She said the state environmental watchdog has developed new regulations to curb effluent discharge into the river.
“Both the public and private sectors will collaborate to reverse declining water quality in the Athi River basin. Municipal authorities are part of this program to reclaim a key fresh water body,” she said.
In addition to industrial pollution, the Athi River basin has experienced negative impacts from climate change.
Wakhungu said siltation and invasive species have destabilized the river’s freshwater ecosystem.
“Water hyacinth choking the Athi River basin is to blame for loss of critical species like fish and water birds,” she said.