- Only 30 per cent of the over five million residents of the capital are connected to the sewerage system, whose treatment capability was last upgraded 39 years ago.
- How Renton acquired the land has been subject of numerous court battles which have prevented the land from reverting to the public.
As Kenya grapples with pollution of Nairobi River, a city is coming up on a disputed parcel of land in Ruai that would have been used for expansion of the Nairobi’s sewerage treatment capacity.
Investigations by the Nation have revealed that the city is being developed on a 1,600-acre parcel of land owned by Renton Company Limited — a firm whose ownership is shrouded in mystery.
The controversial property LR NO 12979/4 through various court proceedings is on paper owned by Renton Company Limited, a firm founded in 1995.
Renton’s records mysteriously disappeared from the Registrar of Companies but we managed to get its registration number, 65570, from a land deal it carried out in the 1990s in Kakamega.
Since last week, the Nation has been running Toxic Flow, an investigative series that has revealed to Kenyans the horrifying levels of toxicity in the Nairobi, Athi and Sabaki River (Kenya’s third longest), and how human activity in Nairobi is to blame for disease outbreaks downstream all the way to Malindi.
One answer to a cleaner River Athi, according to consultants at the Toxic Flow project, would be getting more residents of Nairobi connected to sewage services while, at the same time, enhancing the capabilities of the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) in cleaning sewer water.
As things stand, only 30 per cent of the over five million residents of the capital are connected to the sewerage system, whose treatment capability was last upgraded 39 years ago.
This means that about 3.5 million Nairobians are either dumping their raw sewer into the Nairobi river basin or in septic tanks.
Nairobi’s sewer system, built in the colonial period, has two treatment plants — Kariobangi and Dandora.
The Kariobangi plant, which was commissioned in 1962, has a capacity to treat 32,000 cubic metres of sewer water per day, which is then discharged into Nairobi River.
The Dandora sewage treatment plant, which was commissioned in 1980, can process 80,000 cubic feet of water.
At the time of its opening, it was supposed to serve 80 per cent of Nairobi’s population (a million people at the time).
The choice of location for the plant in Ruai was determined by the area’s low attitude. At 1,480 metres above sea level, the treatment plant stands at the lowest geographical point in Nairobi.
This ensures that the sewer water in the city’s system finds its way to the plant through gravity.
Treated water from the plant’s large pond system, which at some point held the distinction of being the largest in Africa, is released to the River Athi.
But, since 1980, further expansion of the plant has been hampered by encroachment on its land.
As a result, the treated effluent does not meet required quality standards due to overloading.
Standing on the only available land that can be used for expanding the plant are two properties with a total acreage of 2,600 worth Sh20 billion, whose ownership is disputed.
The first parcel, LR No 121297/3 (1,000 acres), is owned by Offshore Trading Company Limited, owned by former YK 92 member Cyrus Jirongo, but the title is being detained by the Central Bank of Kenya over debts accrued by the politician.
The second parcel, LR 121297/4 (1,600) acres, is owned by Renton Company Limited, which is currently building a mega city on the property.
How Renton acquired the land has been subject of numerous court battles which have prevented the land from being reverted to the public.
Last week, while on a tour of the location, the Nation found earth movers constructing a road which will link the city to Kangundo Road and trucks delivering containers to the property.
A network of spies linked to the property has made it difficult to get information and residents have been threatened not to speak about the property to strangers, and strange vehicles are immediately followed.
Officers from the Eastpark police post, which is located inside the property, harass anyone seen taking pictures of the construction work going on.
"People here have died by just challenging the ownership of that land. It is not worth talking about it. Just see what you want to see and leave," one of the IDPs living next to the property told us.
On September 27, 2014, Mr Onesmus Mutinda, who was a surveyor in Ruai, was killed on the Ruiru Bypass.
His crime, according to the IDPs, was questioning the ownership of the 1,600-acre parcel, which by then was occupied by the IDPs.
To date, the squatters claim they were given the land by the former City Council of Nairobi.
"He got a call to go and receive some money on Kiambu Road not knowing that it was a trap," says one of his friends.