Rarely do you walk through an informal settlement (slum) and miss out a run off, a stream or even a river.
Being mainly zones that are neglected by the ‘powers that be’ one would think that such water resources would be taken care of at least to allow the locals a free access to clean water.
But the opposite is true.
Rivers, streams and runoffs in informal settlements are rarely clean.
Infact it just seems as if the ones charged with taking care of them care less about their pollution.
After all, the ones affected have no voice to project.
For the most part, many of these settlements mushroom at the periphery of industrial zones.
By design they are meant to host the factory workers while offering ‘affordable’ accommodation…
Factories owned either by the political class or their business cronies who’re hellbent to create a disadvantaged constituent to keep them at the helm perpetually.
We would be told that the pollution of water sources in such settlements stem from poor sanitation and overcrowding.
True. Sewage disposal is wanting.
That together with the sheer number of people would create a sanitation pressure that is second to none.
Many children in the process are struck with waterborne diseases as a result of drinking contaminated water leaving them at the mercy of God since for the most part, their parents can’t afford taking them to hospital.
But besides the diarrheal threat, an emerging catastrophe is in the making…
A catastrophe conjured up by owners of multimillion shilling industrial complexes bent on expanding their bottom lines at the expense of the very laborers who receive peanuts in return for putting millions in their pockets.
Remember these same industries are financed by ‘investors’ some of whom land in style promising a haven of employment opportunities to the locals.
A number of these self-styled investors have connections with the political class who plead their case on their behalf promising nothing but opportunity to the locals.
But sooner rather than later when the ugly truth rears it’s head, the humongous building housing machinery carrying out industrial processes converts into a channel of misery for the locals.
First they’re paid poorly.
Secondly, they work in poor conditions.
Thirdly, the effluents released by some of these factories do not meet the environmental standards set up by the bodies in charge.
It’s not long before the locals realize that they’re on their own.
Not only are they trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty created by this unholy league of unscrupulous business people and their political sidekicks…
But they also have to struggle with an unhealthy environment …dangerous water laced with untreated industrial effluents.
What’s worrying is while the urban poor is concerned with making that extra shilling to stick his head out of the vicious cycle called poverty, other forces beyond his reach are making his environment more dangerous without his knowledge.
As the factories churn out sophisticated products marketed in uptown malls and even abroad, the untreated effluents they produce are channelled into streams and runoffs…
Streams and runoffs used everyday by the same poorly paid workers as they live in neighboring informal settlements.
Streams intoxicated with heavy metals, dyes, plastic stabilizers, pesticide residues, pharmaceutical by products, tannery waste and loaded with nutrients promoting poisonous algal blooms among other things.
Not only are the poor underpaid and thrown under the bus in a man-eat-man economy, they also live in an environment that is too dangerous for anyone to thrive in.
They drink water laced with such toxins, eat toxic food, breathe toxic air…day in day out until that critical point when the toxicity morphs up into disease.
It’s an unfair world.
But we can shout and call out the vices.
Maybe…just maybe a well meaning leader might dare to listen and act.
Originally posted on John Mmbaga's blog