A healthy river ecosystem provides life not just for aquatic life but also humans. The converse is also true that an unhealthy river ecosystem will suppress life. This has been the case for Ngong River, which flows through Kibra. When it starts its journey at Kibiku Forest in Ngong Hills, this river is known as Motoine River. By the time it arrives in Kibra, it is a bare trickle of highly polluted water. Human waste and plastic waste are two of the river’s major physical pollutants.
Plastic waste is however not unique to this river. It is a towering menace in the world. Large scale production of plastic began in the 1950s. Since then, more than 8,000 million metric tons of plastic have been produced. Some of this plastic ends up in Ngong River every single day, not only polluting the river but also stifling its flow.
The lack of a solid waste and sewer disposal system in Kibra continues to open the floodgates of pollution into Ngong River. Although ongoing government and civil society efforts to address this are commendable, there is still a long way to go. There is a pressing need for heightened strategic action from different stakeholders. Among them is the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
As the leading global environmental authority, UNEP is the Custodian for 25 SDG indicators that span across SDG Goals 6, 8, 12, 14, 15 and 17. These indicators include protection of freshwater, circular economy and the sustainable management of natural resources. It is against this backdrop that UNEP’s Healthy and Productive Ecosystems Programme of it’s Africa Office teamed up with Environmental Africa to develop an action-oriented Ngong River ecosystem restoration story that will be part of Africa's Eco Voices project.
Africa Eco Voices is a communications initiative that is anchored in the Pan African Action Agenda on Ecosystem Restoration for Increased Resilience. Africa’s Eco Voices aims to foster citizen participation in monitoring and reporting on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation and restoration efforts, opportunities, and best practices across Africa.
Restoration of Ngong River’s Kibra section will trigger a powerful chain reaction across Africa. This is because Kibra exemplifies Africa’s urban struggles and environmental degradation. As such, successful restoration of Ngong River will showcase the limitless potential of ecosystem restoration.
Ecosystem restoration is so crucial that the UN set aside a decade of ecosystem restoration that runs from 2021 until 2030. As stated by the UN, ‘The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.’
A restored Ngong River will enhance the livelihoods and health of Kibra’s 300,000 residents. Those among them who have lived in Kibra for decades remember a time when the river was so clean that they would swim and fish in it. These past memories can become present day reality through relentless river ecosystem restoration efforts.