By Caroline Katana
Environment, Climate Change and Forestry ministry is warning of increased health risks if appropriate measures are not taken on the management of e-waste.
Currently, Kenya generates 51.3 thousand tonnes of e-waste per year out of which 99 percent of it is not collected or recycled but dumped inappropriately.
Cabinet secretary Soipan Tuya, speaking at the official opening of African Environment Health and Pollution Management Programme conference in Mombasa, said e-waste emission has dangerous effects on the environment and human health.
“Short term exposure of humans to high levels of unintentional persistent organic pollutants may result in patchy darkening of the skin and altered liver function while long term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, developing nervous system and reproductive functions,” she said.
The CS added that the international use of mercury in artisanal and small scale gold mining directly impacted on the health of millions of people globally.
“The communities near mines are also affected due to mercury contamination of water and soil which subsequent accumulate in food staples such as fish,” she noted.
According to her Kenya government has made major milestones that are contributing in the promotion of solid waste management locally and regionally.
“We have initiated the process of establishing a demonstrated pilot program for e-waste circular economy at Konza technonopolis city on the outskirts of Nairobi which will provide a wide range of e-waste circular economy arrangements, awareness promotion, innovation research, green jobs creation and promotion of bottom up economic transformation.”
She said the African component on policy dialogue and regulatory enhancement sought to support the various government efforts in strengthening current environmental policies and legislations and facilitate implementation to better address the health risks associated with mercury and unintentional persistent organic pollutants (uPOPs).
Director general Mamo B Mamo of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said the rough statistics on e-waste generation was worrying and of concern.
“The greatest challenge is the manner in which we are handling the e-waste where most it is not properly segregated and end up in open dumpsites where it the releases uPOPs on the environment,” he said.
According to him NEMA will continue to offer leadership in the management of e-waste through fast tracking development of relevant regulatory frameworks and compliance enforcement of the current laws.
Being the executing agency, the authority is recognizing the value of protecting nature through the African Environmental Health and Pollution Management project to steer the e-waste agenda in the country.
Deputy governor of Mombasa County, Francis Thoya, said about 700 tonnes of solid waste is dumped at the Mwakirunge site every day.
The Africa Environmental Health and Pollution Management Program (EHPMP) is a five-year regional project covering Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Kenya that will be funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with implementation support from the World Bank.
In Kenya, NEMA will implement the EHPMP project aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity to manage and regulate uPOPs from electronic wastes (e-waste) and mercury pollution from artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in these selected countries.
The project is being implemented in four components including, institutional strengthening, knowledge and capacity building, policy dialogue and regulatory enhancements. This (project) will demonstrate the application of technological tools and economic approaches to reduce environmental health risks due to dumped mercury or e-waste.