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Dumpsite Fires – CEJAD’s view on the issue

A ravaging dumpsite fire in Gioto, Nakuru kills two waste pickers and destroys several homes.

It is with great sadness that the lives of waste pickers and their families continue to be endangered due to working in the dumpsites. A perfect example is in Gioto Dumpiste in Nakuru, where a fire recently broke out , resulting in the death of two waste pickers and contributing to the loss of property of 13 waste pickers’ households.

The most vulnerable waste pickers have no other sources of income and depend solely on selling materials  they have recovered from the dumpsites. According to the waste pickers association members, most waste pickers will make approximately Kshs 150 per day , meaning that recovery of these properties will be extremely burdensome. Yet, with the current rise in global temperatures as a result of climate change, there is an increase in the probability that the methane gas accumulating in the dumpsites will continue resulting in unintentional dumpsite fires. This hazard, combined with other challenges that waste pickers experience , such as lack of health care covers, insufficient funds for medical interventions and comorbidities such as respiratory diseases resulting from inhaling the toxic gases, dioxins and furans, as a result of these combustions, will increase the waste pickers’ vulnerability and ability to bounce back from such impacts when they occur.

Destroyed property in Gioto dumpsite as a result of the fire

The waste pickers, both within the dumpsites and outside, undoubtedly play a key role in the waste management value chain. They support both the government in providing a clean and healthy environment for Kenyan citizens, by collecting waste where the government is unable to or is yet to reach, and providing raw materials for the private sector, and recycling companies. Therefore, attention needs to be given to waste pickers, ensuring that, like any other profession, they have access to environmental and social justice. What this looks like in practice and that can be implemented in the short term in Nakuru, and other counties include the following:
1. The establishment of an emergency fund/welfare fund for waste pickers which can be used to enable the waste pickers to recover in case of these disasters in the immediate term.
2. Provision of the waste pickers associations with zones for waste collection, which will prevent them from working in the dumpsites and will ensure maximum recovery of the waste collected from different sources such as households, businesses and other institutions. This will, in the long term, serve to reduce the amount of waste ending up in the dumpsites.
3. Fasten the construction of material recovery facilities to ensure that waste pickers will work under sheds, with good ventilation and with correct protective equipment adhering to the labour laws.
4. Build the capacity of waste pickers to make use of organic waste, which is majorly resulting in the generation of methane gas, for manure as an alternative source of livelihood.
The lives of waste pickers are important, and their social, economic and environmental contributions are very significant. It is time for Kenya to look after its citizens equitably! We continue to stand in solidarity with waste pickers in Nakuru as they try to recover from this tragedy.


Dorothy Otieno,

Project Officer and Plastics Campaigner,

Centre for Environment Justice and Development.

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