The Ngong River runs black with sewage in Kibera.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.