Water and Sanitation in Kibera


The Ngong River runs black with sewage in Kibera.

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Following decades of unauthorized and unregulated development, infrastructure provision in Kibera remains limited. Access to sanitation, sewerage, solid waste management, and clean water are insufficient and unreliable.

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Kiberan’s recall a time 20 years ago when they could swim and fish swam in the Ngong River. The same is not true in Kibera’s reeking river in 2012. The waterway has become a stinking open sewer of a derelict slum island within a city, bearing much of Kibera’s infrastructure deficiency. Without access to formal public infrastructure services, residents rely on the river as a much needed source of relief.

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Ninety percent of Kibera’s residents do not own a toilet and sixty-eight percent use shared latrines. Although there are sewers in Kibera, few areas have access to them and latrines commonly drain directly into rivers. During the two rainy seasons the river rises, bringing the reeking wastewater flowing into homes and over footpaths, spreading water- and vector-borne infectious disease. Open defecation and the infamous “flying toilets” are common alternatives for households without latrine access, littering walkways and rooftops with human shit.

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Since next to no trash collection is provided in Kibera, residents are forced to dump their solid waste into the reeking black river, further clogging the flow channel and increasing the risk of flooding.

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During the two days each week Kibera’s pipes are on, water of unreliable quality arrives through a spaghetti network of small plastic pipes. Even when water is running in the city, most of Kibera’s water network receives little to no flow due to limited municipal pump capacity or to the utility diverting supply elsewhere. 40 percent of water reaching Kibera is lost to leakage. Residents rely on private water kiosks where they wait in lines and pay 2-5 shillings per 20 liter container, up to twenty times as much as their formal counterparts. During water shortages, prices may quadruple.

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This lack of public infrastructure services, contamination of the local environment, and community health problems are some of the issues KDI sets out to address through design and implementation of productive public space projects with residents of Kibera. Following community group organization, a series of community design workshops, days of surveying, weeks of design, construction planning, and budget preparations, site clean up and inauguration, construction began at site 4 in mid-September 2012.

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Photo credits: Dallas, Brian, Joe, April

Soccer, Hills, & Sites

Work in Kibera continues with Kounkuey Design Initiative. We spend 2-3 days each week in Kibera for meetings and surveying. Other days are spent on design work for upcoming projects. When not working, we are enjoying time in Nairobi. Last week we visited the Ngong Hills for some hiking and had a soccer match in Kibera with the Chief’s team vs. KDI staff.

 

School in Kibera, taken from the railroad.

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Garbage dumping site along the railroad track. All recyclable materials, plastic containers, metals, glass, electronics, are sorted for resale. Pigs live in the garbage, consuming all organics. Plastic bags make up the majority of what remains.

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Buckets anyone? Shopping area in Kibera. They say you can buy anything in Kibera you could find in a shopping mall.

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Many households have basic access to electricity in Kibera, enough to run a few lights at least. The connections are often illegal. While renting an average sized house (10 feet x 10 feet) may cost $10-15 per month, electricity may cost $3-5 per month. Still, many households can not afford legal electricity connections. The municipality is erecting new electric utility poles throughout Kibera.

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Clothes washing at a spring along the river in Kibera near KDI site 3. The river water is heavily polluted. The spring water used for washing appears to be clean.

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Clay brick-making at site 3. The community is pressing bricks using a cement-water-clay mixture. The bricks will be used to construct two buildings on site, a business kiosk and multi-purpose structure.

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The multi-purpose building roof going up.

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Kids playing on the playground at site 3.

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The Ngong Hills lie 22km outside of Nairobi, overlooking the city to the east and the Rift Valley to the west. There is a stark contrast between the two sides, with a city of 3-4 million people on one side and open space with nearly absent infrastructure on the Rift Valley side. This is Masai land.

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We came upon a group of ~30 students at the top of the hills. We hiked and danced with the kids. They were much faster than the mzungus going up and down the hills.

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Power generation facility at the Ngong Hills entrance.

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Soccer match: Chief’s team vs.KDI team. Final score 2-2.

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Joe clears the ball from the back field. The goal box littered with broken glass and the field with plastic bags and broken bottles made for an interesting match. Nobody was seriously injured.

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The match was followed by congratulations, speeches, and a round of sodas in the Chief’s office. The Chief is an appointed official responsible for governing part of Kibera.

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The KDI ‘football’ team.

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Community Design Workshop 2 photos below. In the first design workshop on July 29 about 40 members of the community discussed what physical features and programs they would be interested in developing along the river in their community. In the second workshop on August 5 we began to lay out options for developing the site ground works based on the community’s desired physical infrastructure, including water and sanitation facility, multi-purpose structure for meetings/activities, business kiosks. After discussing the site’s buildable area and options for protecting the area from flooding, the community broke into groups to select preferred options for location of physical structures on the site. Design Workshop 3 will happen August 12, during which the community will finally select a preferred site plan that balances social, economic, and ecological desires for the site.

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Site 4 in Kibera after a night of rain. During heavy rains the river water level rises by more than 5 feet. By the time we reached the site the morning after the rains the water level had dropped back to normal but much of the garbage that had been collecting around the site for the past few weeks had been washed downstream.

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Boys screen the river bed for metals to recycle after the rains.

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Scrap and resale business in Kibera. Tennis rackets, car stereos, jewelry, camera, old coins, all for sale.
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Naivasha Trip

After a lot of work in Kibera, the six interns decided to take off for a day. We spent an evening at Jack’s family farmhouse in the tea estates 80 km from Nairobi. We then drove the next morning, after an awesome breakfast, to Hell’s Gate National Park and Lake Naivasha for some cycling.

Jack’s lovely new sheep wool hat from a roadside stand on the way to Naivasha.

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In Hell’s Gate National Park.

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We rented cycles for an 8km ride to the river gorge.

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Cycling through a national park provided a slow view of wildlife in the park. There were no lions in the park, mostly zebra, giraffe, water buck, boar, gazelle, and birds.

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The Hell’s Gate Gorge.

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Adam and Jack showing off.

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Margeret baiting the lions.

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The KDI intern team . . . Jack, me, Margaret, Adam, Jamila, and April.

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On the way to lunch at Lake Naivasha, we heard a loud scraping noise, the sound of metal on pavement. We pulled over to find a rear shock bolt had fallen out. Fortunately we were near a small town with a mechanic who was able to fix the shock in no time.

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Nairobi Dam and more

Today began with a visit to the Nairobi Dam, which is just downstream from Kibera. A developer is constructing an apartment building at the toe of the dam. The dam has collapsed and destroyed the construction stie twice so far, and now the developer is trying again. The dam holds back a reservoir of 100,000 m3. This post also includes photos from visits to KDI sites 1 and 3. Site 1 is the where we are designing a stream stabilization plan. Site 3 is currently in construction where red clay bricks are being produced.

 

Nairobi Dam reconstruction take 2. The Dam was recently rebuilt after two recent collapses. Building construction has resumed at the toe of the dam. If the trend of collapse continues, we can expect another in the rains of late October 2012.

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The dam reservoir in the foreground with KDI’s site 1 multipurpose building across the reservoir. Althoug the reservoir may look like a field, it is covered in water hyacinth due to pollution. Before 20 years ago the reservoir was a lake used by the local communities for swimming, washing, and sailing. Now the water can’t be used.

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The construction site below the dam. Good idea or bad idea?

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Project Site 1 where we’ll being reconstructing the river banks with riprap and live plantings over the coming weeks.

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The Ministry of Environment is responsible for maintaining the rivers, including the Ngong in Kibera. It was amazing to see how clean the river could become and how the river flow could change with reduced garbage clogging it.

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Project site 3 multipurpose building in construction.

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Brick making at site 3.

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The bricks are made of a mix of red soil, cement, and water. The bricks are pressed one by one on site.

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After pressing, the bricks are laid to dry.

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Surveying continued . . .

The surveying continues at project site 4 in Kibera.

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Watch out, goats!

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The view downstream from the center of site 4.

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It’s a one minute walk around the Ngong River, so we went over.

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KDI-run community meeting about site 4 development.

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Taking measurements with helpers from the community.

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One young man at site 4 has a small jewelry-cash exchange business.

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School boys outside KDI’s Acara office.

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Look down the upper channel of site 4 toward the bridge, with Jack high-fiving in foreground, community meeting in middle ground, and bridge on lookers in background.

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Describing the methods of taking distances and angle measurments to young Kiberans.

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Surveying Kibera (Site 04)

Jack, Marg, and I surveyed KDI’s new site, site 4, in order to develop a site plan that would be used in the community design workshops.

 

Breakfast (chai tea and chapatis) in Kibera with the KDI team.

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Anyone need a pair of leather shoes? The ‘shop’ owners seem to spend much of the day cleaning the dust off the shoes.

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Boyz, KDI staff member, on soda break. Most of the KDI staff a from and live in Kibera.

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We began the site 4 survey in the late morning, working through the afternoon to document the horizontal and vertical site data in order to draft the site.

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Residents around site 4 dump their waste in the river, a common practice throughout Kibera. Solid waste management practices significantly deteriorate the river but there isn’t much of an alternative, except for burning the waste.

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Jack, kale salesman/KDI landscape architect intern.

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Fish shop in Kibera. Still trying to figure out where the fish come from.

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Standard Kiberan road. Not many cars in Kibera.

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Along with water and household sanitation services, solid waste management is lacking in Kibera. Residents have no convenient option other than discarding of garbage in open spaces or directly into the river and drainage ditches.

 

Before cleanup.

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After cleanup.

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Exploring the Ngong River

KDI’s first community project in Kibera occurred at the point where the Ngong River exits Kibera and enters the Nairobi Dam. In the rains of April 2012, the river experienced heavy flows. The stream bed dropped by 1-2 meters as the streambed soil eroded away. We are now designing a stream bed stabilization system for the river at site 1, beginning with a basic site survey.

 

Ngong River at Public Space Project 01 near Salinga in Kibera. The streambed is as much settled inorganic garbage as soil or mud.

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Jack, Joe, Margaret, and I conducted a basic site survey in order to prepare a project design report. Jack is taking a distance measurement downstream from Joe.

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While Jack and Joe were getting wet in the river (Joe fell in!), I helped document the survey from the banks with the help of some students.

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The base of the bridge at site 1 used to be at the streambed. Now the bed has dropped by 1-2 meters. The bridge will face risk of collapse in the coming rainy seasons without measures to stabilize the streambanks.

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Students from the nearby school were interested in taking a look while we surveyed the area.

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Joe in the river.

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Welcome to Kibera, Nairobi

I arrived in Nairobi early morning Sunday July 15 from Delhi. I’m here for 2.5 months working with Kounkuey Design Initiative, a design firm specializing in design of productive public spaces with communities. I’m working as an engineering intern with KDI in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, with an estimated 300,000 to 1,000,000 million residents. Kiberan residents lack access to many basic public services. With KDI, I’m helping design community infrastructure in public spaces along the Ngong River that runs through the slum. KDI has completed two projects in Kibera to date, the third is now in construction, the fourth is now in the design phase.

 

The railway through Kibera serves as a main throughway for walking.

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Most Kiberan residents live in small structures made of mud-wood walls and tin roofs. Many residents rent their homes.

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Kounkuey’s Kibera Public Space Project 03 is in the process of going up. Here is the multi-purpose structure in construction.

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Site 3 view between the multipurpose structure and bridge.

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The bricks are stackable without need for mortar above the first course. There is a channel on the top of each brick on which the next brick layer rests.

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Houses around site 3.

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One of the concrete building columns on the multi-purpose building was tilted, so down it came, one strike at a time.

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A young boy hanging around site 3.

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The site 3 playground is completed and in use.

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Walking up the pathway from site 3 back into central Kibera.

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The rusted metal roofs are ubiquitous in Kibera.

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Waste dumping site in Kibera, much enjoyed by Kibera’s healthy goats.

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The Ngong River runs black in Kibera.

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