Kenya's Self Annihilation Through Pollution And Environmental Degradation

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Environmentally, Kenya is a shrunken shell. The run-away rate of pollution coupled with environmental degradation is a premonition which is a symbolic shape of things to come and is a problem that is bigger than any journalistic shorthand can allow.

The elderly reminisce when the environment gave them a living, when the country was a lovely place with no piles of stinking rubbish, filth and the murky grey raw sewage that is mostly discharged into our rivers. Then the forests were virgin, beaming with all manner of flora and fauna and food was easily available.

However, slightly in the upwards of fifty years after Kenya attained her independence, we are getting as much as we are giving. The environment has been plundered to the extent that today, we have landed ourselves in a terrible environmental plight. The avalanche of turning the country into rangelands and harsh terrain has triggered a collective fine that has slowly marched down upon us like an ogre on the prowl.

The vermilion sun seems to have descended a few degrees from its normal position and gleams tortuously by day .The rains have become erratic and, therefore, unreliable while the water levels in what used to be permanent rivers have dwindled to an all-time lowest ebb. And as usual the Kenyans, who are good at tackling problems from the branches and not the roots, are getting accustomed to living from moment to moment, breath to breath.

Since pollution and environmental degradation have become a relentless reality, regular and apparently unstoppable, our destiny has been sealed. It is misty, incalculable and we are without an environmental tomorrow.

This has, however, happened in the background of the government's unwillingness to face up to the problem which has over time become a symptom of a deeper malaise. The issues of environmental destruction and pollution have not been addressed by policy, legislative, regulatory or any institutional framework.

With that said, there are various events that have combined to threaten the environmental equilibrium. Enormous damages have been done to our ecology and its biodiversity. The consequence has been a loss of several habitats, both terrestrial and aquatic.

Frog Eggs
Frog Eggs

Today, water towers have been pilfered bare. And nearly all rivers contain organic chemicals and heavy metals. In others carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) seem to have leaked into their streambeds and food chain.

It must be remembered that many years before this level of pollution was perceptible, our rivers were bountiful with different kinds of aquatic life like fish, alligators, otters, snails ,frogs and green water snakes. Their presence more or less provided a sort of mini-ecosystem behind which the minimum levels of pollution could be easily detected.

Like it has already been mentioned, environmental degradation and pollution are all around in Kenya - and globally - and very much man-made. For this reason, we need an urgent and apparently beguilingly simple solution to the onward march of this problem. Unfortunately our leaders, who should as well cast off their intellectual snobbery and show their muscles and intent in this fight, are seen to visibly wilt. Whatever most of them say sounds very much like throwing in the towel in their long lines of extravagant and broken promises they make.

Teleswani River - Mia Moja, Timau
Teleswani River - Mia Moja, Timau

National campaigns to mobilize different communities have been done .But the government must make better and dramatic steps by openly declaring a fight against any form of environmental destruction. It must be the active principal mover and not the passive receiver it appears to be because this is a national catastrophe.

Above all, we in our individual capacities must do something, no matter how small, to help in some way. We must be active, dedicated and prepared to give our time and ingenuity to the task of improving the environment. And this improvement should start at the point nearest to us. Say, like, throwing that empty plastic water bottle in a bin. The right bin.

Each one of us has a part to play in improving this situation. Like the sea which is made up of countless drops of water, or the beach with its infinite grains of sand, each one separate and individual, each drop or grain has a part to play in making the whole beautiful sea or beach. We are indeed the same.

We must learn to overwhelm fear and ignorance, powerful masters. We must not languish in this endless environmental destruction. Otherwise this would be nothing short of a rococo theatre.


Watch the plastic pollution in Ruaka River:

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