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Kenya is estimated by the World Bank to have 33 percent of its population living in urban areas at the current time – a number projected to surge to 48 percent by the year 2020 (Urban snapshot 2000).  See Table 11. for an overview of Kenya and neighboring countries' urban statistics.  Nairobi is estimated to have grown more than 600 percent since the 1950s, to a population of 4.5 million.  It was originally designed to house a maximum of 1 million (Hinrichsen 1998).  The country is part of an urbanization trend throughout the continent, which excels chiefly in that its cities are growing faster with lower economic growth than any other region of the world.  Two-thirds of the residents of these areas live in slums and peri-urban green area ringing the city; residents here have little access to municipal services, a particular concern being lack of water supply, sanitation, and health services.  However, 78 percent of Nairobi’s households are estimated to be connected to a water supply and 35 percent to sewerage systems (WRI 1998).

Table 11.  Urban - rural environmental statistics for Kenya and neighboring countries


Urban population growth (annual %)

Access to sanitation (% of total population)

Access to sanitation (% of urban population only)

Access to safe water (% of total population)

Access to safe water (% of urban population only)


6.3 (1993) - 5.3 (1998)

43 (1993)

69 (1993)

49 (1993)

74 (1993)


6.1 (1993) - 5.3 (1998)

86.2 (1993)

97 (1993)

49 (1993)

65 (1993)


5.5 (1993) - 5.4 (1998)

66.8 (1993)

60 (1995)

41.8 (1993)

60 (1995)

(Source:  World Bank Urban Data Tables 1999).

Coastal areas and inland waterways are the first place to look for the impacts of urban environmental resource use in Kenya.  The vast majority of municipal and industrial wastes created in Kenya are untreated when they eventually find their way into the Indian Ocean.  Nairobi’s systems are completely overwhelmed.   In Mombasa, industries are known to dump untreated wastes directly into waterways and the ocean.  Tudor Creek and Kilindini Creek, for example, are badly polluted.  

5.6.2. Relative severity of threat to urban environmental resources.

Urban environmental issues and their linkages with health, natural resource use in rural areas, and economic development potential are not well understood for Africa generally and this includes Kenya.  These linkages are there in the movement of raw materials and other forms of trade back and forth, however, and they therefore have greater importance than may typically be granted by most "environmental" planners.  Currently these trends strongly threaten economic development potential in Kenya, and increasingly they will affect ecosystem health in cities and surrounding areas, and also human health.

5.7. Summary:  relative severity of environmental threats in Kenya

Following is a simplified "ranking" of the relative severity of environmental threats in Kenya.  This section is accompanied by an index presented in Annex 3.  It is a judgement – and by no means the final one possible – of the "sum" of information and expert opinion assembled for this report, a comparison of each sector with the frequency of occurrence of degradation in that sector and the potential consequences to the achievement of USAID's three objectives in environment (USAID Guidelines for Strategic Plans 1995).  These include:

1.Ameliorating and preventing environmental threats to human health

2.Protecting critical ecosystems

3.Safeguarding the environmental and social underpinnings of economic growth

Kara PagePage 2910/23/2006

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