Electricity: Safety in Mathare

Transformer on fire along Juja Road

Every week, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company workers are usually accompanied by two uniformed police to inspect illegal connection in the slum. Along Juja Road, there are more than 10 transformers which serves a very large population. Today (21/3/2011) was a bad day as a transformer burst into flames along Juja Road near Kiboro Primary School. More than 500 houses will go without electricity for a few days. The helpless members of the community were forced to just look from a far while pondering when it will be replaced. One of the hallmarks of living in slums is time taken to respond to emergencies. Before the officials from KPLC and City Council of Nairobi Fire Brigade responded to the emergency call, the fire had already consumed nearly 90% of the transformer.

The demand for lighting houses Mathare Valley is increasing everyday. People depend on paraffin to light their homes despite environment hazard posed by inhaling fumes from the kerosene.

Those who can afford electricity, share it out with their friends though illegal connection. It is these connections that the Kenya Power and Lighting Company workers and uniformed police are trying to locate for arrest. Today’s fire on the transformer is being blamed on overloading. This shows that there is demand for power by the community but only a few have access to it genuinely. If I was KPLC, I would lower the connection fee and create incentives for people to have power before it is too late. KPLC should learn from what happened to Kenya Posts and Tele Communication Ltd given that very soon we might have a second operator in the power sector. – Simon

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