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Management of garbage in Nairobi Perspectives of restructuring public action1 Mathieu Mérino2 Nairobi’s basic public services, particularly the management of garbage, have been a recurring concern of the public authorities since the foundation of the city in 1899. Due to the importance of these services for the city’s health,          beginning of the 20th century.3 By 1910, the town authorities were using enough staff to ensure the regular cleaning and maintenance of public areas (especially the streets) and the collection and disposal of garbage. Thenceforth waste management worked relatively well until the mid-1970s, despite sporadic crises and changes in the local government system following independence in 1963. The challenges that towns face today in terms of managing garbage are complex. They are closely linked to the rapid growth of urbanisation in Kenya since the 1960s. Even if Kenya may be described as one of the less urbanised countries in the sub-Saharan Continent.4 [It] passed without a planned transition from a nearly rural society to a society where the urban factor, though not to be statistically dominant,             which has prevailed up to today.5 The proportion of Kenyans living in towns rose from 5 per cent in the 1950s to 34.8 per cent in 2000.6 Nairobi, which had a population of 325,000 inhabitants at Independence, has become a gigantic city with a population of more than 3 million residents,7 and this      [  ' capital comprises one-third of the national urban population.8 Z         Q "  ‘‰‰‰Š ‘‰‰_ 2 Researcher associated with CREPAO, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour. 3 Particularly due to the epidemics that affected the town regularly (cholera and pest diseases). 4 In Africa, in 2000, towns and cities comprised an average of 37 per cent of the population. 5 Bourmaud, D., Histoire politique du Kenya: État et pouvoir local, Paris, Karthala, 1988, p. 260. 6 Mitullah, W. ‘The case of Nairobi, Kenya’, Urban Slums Reports‘‰‰‘ ‘      nevertheless be considered relative due to the fact that several studies agree with the fact that the urban population was overestimated by the 1999 census due to counting of the rural population living around the towns. The urban percentage in Kenya would therefore be best established around 22–23 per cent: Bocquier,‚€‡       ¥ † *¦&??     =* Politique Africaine, No. 90, Juin 2003, p. 82. 7 Despite regular censuses in Kenya, the data on the capital are not very precise. During the last census in 1999, its population was coming to about 2,143,000 inhabitants. But the entire team of researchers agrees         "   researchers estimate the population in Nairobi to be 3 million inhabitants in 2004. 8 Bocquier, P., op.cit \_   ] ˆ˜'‘‰‰Z‹ 96 NAIROBI TODAY             the last half century. Today, local authorities in Nairobi seem overwhelmed in regard to their capacity to manage the various urban services. The City no longer seems to be in a position to provide infrastructure and basic services to its residents. This is according to the picture painted by the water supply, sanitation networks and garbage collectors. The problem of uncollected domestic garbage has become, for the last 30 years, a characteristic feature of          way Nairobi people live. The capital is no longer the ‘Green City in the Sun’ as it was once portrayed. In the 1980s, a severe crisis was manifest in the garbage services at all levels of the city, as in most public services. To respond to this continuing crisis in the management of garbage, the       •   private actions took a dominant place in the practical and daily management of waste in the city. Public authorities seem to have withdrawn from this process, and in fact have been incapable of handling the situation for the last three decades. The Municipal Cleansing Department and the authorities that are responsible (the Nairobi City Council–NCC) now give an unclear picture.      Q      collection. Moreover, practical garbage management is becoming more and more complex: when one takes into account the ever growing number and variety of players, the line between the public and the private sector becomes blurred to the point that regulating both seems problematic. While restructuring public action on the issue of garbage management would end a unitary representation, does this mean that one would now    =      splintered from a completely heterogeneous public action, and be lacking in a regulatory mechanism. The inability of the public authorities to arrest the deteriorating situation         the impression of a complete abandonment of this public problem by the municipality. The frequent calls by the public to privatise...


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