Kenya: A new initiative to restore the Nairobi Dam and its waters back to health will be launched tonight

Nairobi, 04 March 2004 - A new initiative to restore the Nairobi Dam and its waters back to health will be launched tonight by H.E Hon. Moody Awori, Vice President of Kenya, Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and Mr. Paul Andre de la Porte, the resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project, called the Nairobi Dam Trust Initiative, aims to raise up to $600,000 to clean up the reservoir so that it can be again an important source of clean and healthy drinking water as well as a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, fishermen, picnickers and bountiful bird life.

Mr Toepfer and Mrs Tibaijuka said the new Trust was part of a wider initiative to clean up the Nairobi River: The Nairobi River Basin Project, launched in 1999 and supported by UNEP, UN-HABITAT and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been helping to improve the water quality and environmental health of this most vital of river systems. Its Trust Fund, established by UNEP, has attracted considerable support with the Government of Belgium having contributed $400,000. We are also grateful to the Government of France for contributing $65,000.

However, it is clear that the Nairobi Dam presents a particular problem. We congratulate the newly formed Friends of the Nairobi Dam for launching this new Trust Initiative and call on all actors, including the private sector, to wholeheartedly back the scheme, said Mr. Klaus Toepfer.

Cleaning up the dam and the water sources of Nairobi will directly benefit the urban poor, said Mrs. Tibaijuka. However, it is important to realize that successful completion of the project will require a commitment by all stakeholders to slum upgrading and to providing decent shelter, adequate sanitation and clean water to the poor, especially those living in Kibera.

Currently, 3.6 million people living in informal settlements in Kenya do not have adequate water supply and sanitation utilities. They rely on water kiosks, water vendors and natural sources of water.

The water scarcity in Kenya is due to an increase in population, an increase in pollution, imprudent management of the water resources and degradation of river catchment areas as a result of such factors as illegal and unsustainable logging of forests. It is estimated that this poor water management is costing the Kenyan economy almost US$ 50 million annually.

From a national perspective, Kenya is classified as a chronically water-scarce country with only 650 cubic meters per inhabitant per year representing only 24% of the water that is available to an Ugandan, and 22% of the water available to a Tanzanian.

The Nairobi Dam, 356,179 square meters and carrying capacity 98,422 cubic meters was commissioned in 1953 as reservoir for potable and emergency water supply. The population of Nairobi at that time was about 10,000 and it was already evident that the existing water resources had to be harnessed for the growing population.

The dam gradually became a major attraction for recreational activities such as sport fishing, sailing, diving, picnics and other water sports. Unfortunately, heavy pollution emanating from the high-density population of the Kibera informal settlement has stimulated growth of invasive plant species, especially Water Hyacinth and Parrots Feather which have infested the water body since 1998 and have curtailed recreational activities. Invasive aquatic weeds and solid waste dumping have completely altered the aquatic ecology and flow regimes of associated rivers.

Other problems of the dam have been as a result of lack of proper waste management, solid waste, liquid waste and industrial waste. Water samples from the dam have consistently registered very high coliform counts which indicate a high degree of sewage contamination. This and other pollutants have rendered the water in the river system and the dam totally unusable and hazardous to human health.

One of the immediate roles of the Nairobi Dam Trust Initiative will be to mobilize financial resources to meet the investment needs in the rehabilitation and restoration of the Nairobi Dam, and the Kenyan water sector in general.

Contributions and donations from bilateral, multilateral and private sector players will be directed towards the support of the Nairobi Dam Initiative.

Note to Editors

Friends of Nairobi Dam Association (FoNDa) was founded in March 2003 to oversee the formulation and implementation of the Environmental Management Plan for the Nairobi Dam, in an effort to consolidate all initiatives towards the rehabilitation of the Nairobi Dam.

Stakeholders who constitute Friends of Nairobi Dam include: landlords and tenants of Kibera and surrounding areas; Civil Society (NGOs; CBOs; Neighbourhood Associations; Water User Associations); NCC; the Sailing Club; Government Ministries (Water; Environment; Local Government; Lands; Roads, Public Works and Housing); NEMA; Provincial Administration; UN-Agencies and Multi- and Bi-lateral Agencies (DFID; AFD; World Bank).

For More Information Please Contact: Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 20 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: or Angele Luh, Information Officer in UNEP's Regional Office for Africa, on Tel: 254 20 624292 or