Police station burnt in Dagoretti riots

A police station was burnt in Dagoretti yesterday after a government decision to close Nairobi’s biggest abattoir because of environmental pollution. Rioting workers also attempted to uproot the railway line to Western Kenya before they were dispersed by police.

The workers appealed to the government to reverse the closure, saying that the abattoir is their only source of livelihood. Meanwhile, meat prices began rising in Nairobi, with butchery operators fearing a drop in demand from consumers hard-hit by rising fuel and electricity costs.

This week, the National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) ordered the closure of the Dagoretti slaughterhouse, which is the main source of meat to Nairobi. NEMA says that waste disposal at the slaughter house is chaotic and pollutes nearby rivers. According to NEMA, the slaughter house operators were given months to comply with orders to clean up their business, but failed to act.

On their part, workers, business people and other operators at the Dagoretti abattoir say they have no capacity to clean up the environment by themselves, and that the government should ensure proper disposal of waste. For majority of workers, incomes from the slaughter house are barely enough to feed their families and additional requirements by NEMA will put further strains on their finances.

The Dagoretti slaughter house is meant to supply meat, but a secondary industry has developed where every animal part is turned into a tradable commodity. There are people waiting to collect bones, intestines, hooves, heads and skins.

Hooves, heads and intestines are used to make cheap stews for the residents of Nairobi’s slums. Even the tiny shreds of meat to be found on animal skins are scrapped out by the poorest of the poor and used to supplement their very basic meals. For these people, environmental concerns are not a priority compared to the need to survive.

Unfortunately, these people on the edges of starvation, are the biggest losers in NEMA’s battle with meat industry big shots.

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