Clip first aired on Citizen TV (courtesy of youtube)
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya covers an area of 696 square kms with a population of 3,138,369 as per the 2009 National housing and population census. Nairobi is considered a primate city. Its population is more than the combined population of Kenya’s three other cities and more than three times the population of the second largest City (Mombasa).
Nairobi urban housing development is governed by the Nairobi Master Plan which was developed in 1948. At the development of the master plan Nairobi’s population was lower than 314,760 (population in 1963). The master plan has once been reviewed in 1973 as the Nairobi Metropolitan growth strategy, though not implemented. In 2014 the Nairobi Integrated Urban Development (NIUPLAN) was developed to be implemented over a 15 year period.
Rapid population growth caused a housing deficit of 60,000 units by the 1980’s and this has been cumulatively increasing over the years. World Bank estimates that approximately 61% of urban households live in housing that meets the MDGs’ definition of a slum. The government’s goal of increasing the formal supply of affordable housing is not being met; Vision 2030 development plan sets a target of producing 200,000 housing units a year yet it only managed 3,000 in 5 years (2009-2012).
Private developers’ intention of cashing in on the housing demand have been constructing high rise buildings, usually rushed without meeting the building standards. Due to lax of enforcement of construction codes, structural integrity is compromised putting occupants in danger. Buildings have been collapsing and lives have been lost. In 2016 alone, 49 lives were lost when a 7 storey building collapsed in Huruma in April while in May another building collapsed in Huruma where 16 people died. In 2015 alone, a total of 8 buildings collapsed killing 15 people. The first major case was recorded in 2006 where more than 112 people were killed when a building collapsed in Nairobi CBD.
As a result of frequent building collapses, there was a presidential directive to set up a building audit team where I was privileged to be a part of. So far, the team has conducted audit in high risk areas such as Huruma. From the audit, 58% of audited buildings have been considered not safe for habitation. During the inspection exercise we witnessed a newly built six-storey residential flat collapse. The timely warning and evacuation as advised by the audit team saved lives of the occupants.
Research has shown that on average, a human being spends up to 90% of their time in buildings. In one of the surveys conducted by The National Human Activity Pattern Survey, the respondents indicated that they spend 87% of their time indoors. With so much time being spent in buildings it is important that the structures be safe human habitation. All players in the construction industry need to work with integrity. The Kenyan National Construction Authority having been charged with the responsibility of managing the construction industry should continually train construction workers so as to build their capacities and also put more emphasis on construction of buildings that meet the quality standards. The National Building Inspectorate should also put in more effort in conducting frequent checks to ensure compliance in building standards. Members of the public are advised to be vigilant and report buildings whose structural integrity has been compromised. They should also demand to be shown the occupancy permit for the building issued by the government to the owner of the building before inhabiting newly constructed housing units.
About the Author
Everlyne Jane Wanjiku holds Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Management and is pursuing a diploma in Project Management. She currently works at the National Buildings Inspectorate as a buildings auditor and has worked previously as a Research Assistant in the Public Health field. Her interests are in Public Health and Safety.