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Dandora Landfill in Nairobi, Kenya

One of the largest unregulated landfills causing serious health issues at few kms away from top international agencies like UNEP


Dandora dump is a sprawling dumpsite, over 30 acres, in the heart of the Nairobi slums of Korogocho, Baba Ndogo, Mathare and Dandora. It opened in 1975 with World Bank funds and was deemed full by 2001. Yet it continues to operate, and people at the very bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder come here as their last hope to make a living from scavenging the waste, but in the same time exposing themselves to tremendous pollution. This case is a very accurate example of environmental injustice (environmental racism) whereby the poor societies of Nairobi are impacted by waste dumped from the whole greater Nairobi region, and are polluted with toxins. Yet, it is explained as the best solution for all because the poor people actually get food from there and scavenge for materials to sell to the recyclers. Dumping in Dandora is unrestricted and includes industrial, agricultural, domestic and medical waste. Studies have confirmed the presence of dangerous elements such as lead, mercury, cadmium and PCBs which are seriously hazardous for humans. Due to the underdevelopment of scientific bodies in Kenya but also to political clashes, popular epidemiology has been used to prove sickness and mortality in Dandora. No official study or statistics have been undertaken, therefore the “lay” knowledge is as valid as the official one here and can be considered street science. Fortunately it is also true that Nairobi is a capital with much international regards and a seat at the EU Environmental Programme (UNEP); therefore it would be strange if the biggest environmental organization would neglect this environmental catastrophe happening just 8 km from its headquarters. UNEP has commissioned a couple of studies showing dangerously high levels of heavy metals in the surrounding environment and in the body of local residents. Lead and cadmium levels were 13,500 ppm and 1,058 ppm respectively, compared to the action levels in the Netherlands of 150 ppm/5ppm for these heavy metals. The Stockholm Convention on hazardous pollution, which Kenya has ratified, requires actions aimed at eliminating these pollutants. The promise to act was agreed by the government, interested stakeholders and the civil society. Many global NGOs have called upon Kenyan government representatives and stakeholders to honor the integrity of the Convention and keep the promise of reduction and elimination of those pollutants. Unfortunately, as of December 2014, nothing has been done. On the contrary, more and more waste is addressed to the landfill and more and more is being permanently burned, more toxic substances leaching to the waters and air. The Nairobi River also passes besides the dumpsite according to UNEP aggravating the situation. The Dandora dumpsite is a sad picture of a multiple tragedy. The City Council of Nairobi was to decommission the dumpsite in 2012, after 8 years of planning. However, conflict between the council and the Kenya Airports Authority over the relocation of the dumpsite to Ruai has brought the process to a grinding halt. The community sees that there will be no easy end to this largest and most flagrant violations to human right and environmental health in the country. The dumpsite exists in contravention of several provisions to the Constitution of Kenya.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Dandora Landfill in Nairobi, Kenya
Location of conflict:Nairobi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Industrial waste
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Dandora dumpsite is the destination of about 850 tonnes of solid waste generated daily by around 3.5 million inhabitants in entire city. The 30 acre site, which is one of the largest in Africa was once a quarry that the City Council of Nairobi sought to use temporarily. It was opened nearly forty years ago, and declared full in 2001, yet it is still in operation.

Project area:12
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:around 1 million of the local inhabitants but the environmental impact os global (the river goes to the Indian Ocean).
Start of the conflict:01/01/2000
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Wastepickers, recyclers
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Global warming, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsRespiratory diseases caused by the toxic air pollution because of burning waste
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Other socio-economic impactsChildren drop-out from school to make their living on the dumpsite
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Negotiated alternative solution
Proposal and development of alternatives:There is a proposal to relocate the dumpsite to the slum called Riu. However, Kenya Airports Authority - situated next to the new site - rejected the move for fear that it would attract birds and affect aircrafts. The government is currently looking for alternative land.
There is a concern that this change will bring nothing but just a relocation of the problem. No measures aiming at reducing residual waste have been implemented.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There is a huge problem of corruption that effectively waters-down the alternatives that would bring back some environmental justice. Some politicians owning flees of garbage trucks are derailing the process out of fearing that the regulated system would cut into their profits.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

a database of literature on Dandora dumpsite
[click to view]

Buried in Dandora: Nairobi's Waste Management Disaster - by Micah Albert
[click to view]

Dandora Facebook page
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Dandora Dillema
[click to view]

Gangs engage in gunfights over Dandora dumpsite
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Piotr Barczak, European Environmental Bureau; [email protected]; I thank the contributors tht helped me to prepare the report: George Thumbi; Japheth Oluoch Ogola;
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1932
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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