Outcry as farmers irrigate crops with contaminated water in Athi River – The Star Kenya
Climate change effects continue to negatively impact Kenyans in different ways as citizens also struggle to mitigate effects of drought and hunger.
As over four million Kenyans face starvation due to inability to afford food, some have become more innovative to mitigate the negative effects.
In Machakos county, the government through Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi on Saturday announced that over 500,000 residents were in danger due to biting hunger and drought.
Farmers have resorted to contaminated water to irrigate their food crops.
A spot check by the Star along River Athi on Sunday confirmed that there were lots of agricultural activities going on.
Some residents depend on such farms as their sources of livelihoods.
There are lots of vegetable farms with mostly kales and spinach along the river.
The farms visited by the Star included those along Nairobi –Namanga road in Athi River, Kwa Mang’eli village, at Stage 39 bridge along Nairobi – Mombasa road, Jam City slum and Mto wa Mawe areas.
Farmers were busy in the farms with some irrigating the crops while others tilling, harvesting kales.
There were tens of water pump generators pumping water from nearby streams including River Athi for irrigation.
Most parts of River Athi has for several months remained dry until a few days ago when some areas started receiving rainfalls.
Residents who claim that some farmers use water contaminated with effluent and garbage from industrial companies and apartments within the town, have raised concerned citing health risks.
They claim there were high possibilities of consumers of the farm produce, which are sold in nearby markets within Machakos county and its neighbouring areas, can cause diseases to their consumers hence need for urgent intervention.
Environmentalist Daniel Mwanza, a Mlolongo resident, 4AS CBO chairman and farmer within Mlolongo division, Athi River subcounty, said they had raised their complaints with relevant authorities on the same in vain.
“I am a farmer and resident of Mlolongo town, Mlolongo and Syokimau areas have a major issue of water pollution mostly by residential apartments and companies around,” Mwanza said.
“We have raise the issues with relevant authorities including Nema officials but nothing much has been done to ensure water sources are protected and pollution stopped.
Mwanza said he is one of the farmers who grows vegetables for both commercial and domestic usage in the subcounty.
“In Syokimau for instance, we have Kicheko dam. So many people use the water for irrigation and fishing. Many rivers and streams around flow into River Athi. If the water is contaminated, residents and consumers of the farm produce get exposed to health risks,” Mwanza said.
He said the situation had worsened during this season of drought which has seen water bodies dry up.
The residents called on the government and other relevant authorities to ensure pollution is gotten rid of and sewerage systems are constructed in the Athi River subcounty as a long lasting solution.
“River Athi is highly polluted since many people drain effluent into streams that end up into the river,” Mwanza said.
This he said will consequently affect the multi-billion shilling Thwake dam project that was being constructed in Makueni county since contaminated water will get into the dam.
Mwanza said there are other streams and rivers in Kimabu, Nairobi and Kajiado counties which are River Athi distributaries. The river stretches to Machakos, Kitui and Makueni counties.
Machakos National Environmental Management Authority director Parnwell Simitu when reached for comments on Monday directed the Star to the authority’s cooperate communications offices at its headquarters.
“I am not mandated to respond on such issues. Go to our headquarters and get the information from our cooperate communications office,” Simitu told the Star on the phone.
Judith Awino, a peasant farmer at Kisumu Ndogo slum in Athi River said there were known industrial companies notorious for polluting the river.
Awino said the company discharges chemicals which they avoid using to irrigate their vegetables so as not to wither.
“We avoid using the water to irrigate our vegetables when the discharge has chemicals. We notice that the discharge has chemicals if it has foam,” Awino said.
The woman said she had been farming on the same land belonging to Kenya Railways for nine months. Residents claim most of the industrial companies discharge effluent at night.
“I personally avoid the water when it’s discharged with chemicals, it is dangerous not only to crops but also human health,” she said.
Multiple sources who talked to the Star said all the discharges from polluters were directed to River Athi.
“When we complained about a certain factory around, we were told there were many companies involved in pollution. Some also release smoke at night,” she said.
They said their complaints had fallen on deaf ears since no action was taken by relevant authorities.
Those who asked to remain anonymous said they were residents hence feared victimisation stating that corruption fights back.
“We have complained until we got tired, nowadays we have decided to keep quiet. Mnyonge hana haki,” another resident said.
Kisumu ndogo slum has over 150 residents.
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