The Magical River

The Magical River

The Magical River

By / Rivers / Thursday, 25 May 2017 05:34

I once thought it was a magical river. As a child, every Sunday my family and I crossed over River Kabuthi in Dagoretti, Kenya. River Kabuthi is a major tributary of the Nairobi River. Just as it was a custom to go to church, we developed another custom. Holding our noses tightly shut as we crossed over. All thanks to the stench.  It smelt like fecal waste, rot and death in one place. On one Sunday the water would be green. The next Sunday the same water would turn reddish.

Every child in the neighborhood was afraid of River Kabuthi.  Parents told scary tales to keep us all away from the river. However, the more they tried to keep us away, the more we got curious about this river.

 “Does it have fish? Why does the river change color? Is it a magical river? When it flows where does it stop? Is it true that the river eats children? If it ate children, why were the police not shooting it or why did Jesus allow it!”

 During our play time we could compose songs about the river and dance to the beat of the buckets being hit by the boys.

On one Sunday morning we woke up to some alarming news. It had rained heavily and the river had broken the bridge and carried away a drunken man. We were all petrified and used a longer route to church that Sunday, and a few other days that followed.

A few years later, when we had become teenagers, the government responded to our concerns by building a stronger bridge and rails on the side. Each day, the river became clearer and stopped changing color. We later realized that we had heroes to thank. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) had investigated the source of the color change problem. A slaughter house at the market would throw their waste in the river including animal waste, stomach contents, meat particles and blood. It was a health hazard for so many people.

 The abattoir’s board and management sat together with several public and private sector institutions, and provided a waste management programme which included converting animal waste to energy through biogas. This project was named as the Dagoretti’s Nyongara Slaughterhouse Biogas project. This helped reduce the cost of energy for the slaughter house.

Even as adults, River Kabuthi has continued to impact our lives in tremendous ways. We no longer have to hold our noses as the waste is being managed well. Our farms near the river benefit from adequate water and every harvesting season we enjoy some nduma (arrow roots) and mukimo (traditional Kikuyu meal).

The river is now beautiful and the sound of clean, flowing water calms the soul. Though most of my childhood questions have been answered, I still find myself looking for fish and hoping that someday they will swim in our river. The mental picture of its past state still haunts us but we are happy that the future generations will enjoy swimming at our beloved river.

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Hannah Waithira Kageche

Hannah Waithira Kageche

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