Buried in Dandora: Voices of Nairobi's Waste Management Disaster

Kenya’s Dandora Municipal Dump Site is the only dumping location for waste in Nairobi, East Africa’s most populous city, and serves as a provocative starting point for understanding the growing health, poverty, and sanitation problems facing the rapidly expanding capital and region.

Located just 8 km from the central business district, the 30-acre Dandora site literally spills into the households of nearly 1 million people living in nearby slums. This project addresses what proximity to the dump has meant for the the health, dignity, spirit, and landscape of these surrounding communities, in the process uncovering the neglected voices of the people whose livelihoods are affected daily by Dandora. Behind the statistics of children with respiratory ailments, toxic blood lead levels, skin disorders, and fatal diseases directly attributed to the waste are stories of communities that have grown to depend on the dump--from street children who live off the money they make selling food and other items they find in its piles to residents who are paid pennies a day by private cartels to sort and recycle waste.

The country’s leadership has long shown alarming indifference to Dandora – ignoring environmental laws, UN-commissioned health studies, and calls for closure from human rights groups. A contested February 2012 process to decommission the site was recently canceled. Through a narrative of survival amidst tragic health and environmental consequences, this project explores a marginalized population long overshadowed by an industrializing city’s expansion.

Dandora's Scavengers and Recyclers

Dandora, Nairobi's primary dumping site, is over capacity. Yet the willingness and ability of government officials to decommission it within the next five years remain in doubt.