By NAFTALI MWAURA
The hyacinth weed has literally choked Nairobi Dam. The highly noxious weed that invaded this Dam close to six years ago has formed a carpet hence reducing a once valuable ecological resource in the Capital city to total waste.
Nairobi Dam is an eyesore due to hyacinth weed that has held a vicious grip to a Dam that once gave this City picturesque landscape for residents to savour and relish with abandon.
The weed forms a green carpet over Nairobi Dam and has obliterated its face. According to a resident who has lived near the Dam for the last twenty years, a Mr Joseph Ngigi, the Dam used to be a valuable resource to Nairobians who sampled its many benefits like providing water for domestic use and irrigation, recreation and fishing.
The Dam is strategically sandwiched between a number of both upmarket and poor neighbourhoods located in the south of the Capital.
Nairobi Estates adjacent to the Dam are Kibera High rise, Ngei Estate, Madaraka and the sprawling Kibera slums.
People residing in these estates according to Mr Ngigi used to visit the Dam for recreation activities like scuba dive, boat racing and swimming. The Dam had been a source of water for various Agricultural practices. According to Ngigi, urban farming that thrived in the 1980`s and early 90`s is wholly attributed to the Dam. People living in the vicinity have always engaged in intensive farming activities around the Dam.
The Dam has provided water for cultivation of vegetables, maize, potatoes, and sugarcane. Infact Nairobi at one time boasted of large harvest of food crops like the rural highlands. A leisure walk along the shores of the Dam were an uplifting expedition to City residents who cried for an air of relief after spending six days of depressing helter skelter in search for a living.
Mr Ngigi and his generation can only ponder with nostalgic collections on the halcyon days when the Dam was so clean and being a haven of tranquillity it was, they used to visit the Dam for picnics and Dates with youthful lovers.
Not any more.
The Dam is today a complete shell of its former shelf. It has been polluted heavily and emits pungent but choking smell. An Environmentalist working for a reputable consultancy firm dealing Environmental matters, Mr Leo Fernandez explains that the uncontrolled discharge of effluent into the Dam provided ideal conditions for the Hyacinth to blossom in the Dam. There is a lot of waste material being drained into the dam. The bulk of this waste originates from factories and residential estates in the vicinity. The proliferation of unplanned settlements whose hallmark is overcrowding, poor sanitation and haphazard waste disposal has also aggravated the situation. Slums and illegal settlements are a source of most of waste material discharged into the dam.
The hyacinth weed originated from Latin America. It is highly noxious. It spreads so fast and chokes inland water bodies leading to immense ecological and economic losses. The weed has invaded Lakes Victoria, Naivasha and the Nairobi Dam. The weed is non-native, is endowed with unique characteristics such as lack of predators, ability to take nutrients, hardy seeds that can last for ten years. These unique features enable the weed to survive in the water all seasons round, according to Environment lecturer in Daystar University, Mr. Peter Ngure.
Domestic and industrial effluent that is drained into the dam provides nutrients that enable the weed to blossom. Though the weed can be useful in making furniture and composed manure its threats to our lake ecosystems and other biodiversity far outweighs any benefit.
There have been concerted efforts of late geared towards eradication of hyacinth weed at the Nairobi Dam. The World Bank and Nation media group have come together to seek ways of removing this toxic weed from Nairobi Dam. The two organizations have earmarked 400 million Kenya Shillings to fight the weed. The cost involved is quite astronomical and calls for wider participation of stakeholders.
Campaigns to save Nairobi Dam are at fever pitch, according to a Nairobi City Council officer. Residents who have relished in its many benefits of yester year have united to press the case for its reclamation. They have gone ahead to raise a fund, have lobbied corporate bodies, the Government and donors to make a tangible commitment in terms of resources that can help in saving the dam from the hyacinth grip.
So far scientists are grappling on how to go about eradicating hyacinth from Nairobi Dam. The case to fight this noxious weed using either biological or chemical means is yet to be resolved amicably. Despite this stalemate from the scientific community, Nairobi residents like Mr. Ngige who are passionately committed to efforts to save the dam are yet to give up and wish that more people would open their eyes to see the ugly face of a once beautiful dam and help realise its restoration