When it rains in mathare you might notice that the trenches where rain water runs through are emitting a whitish smoke as if something is boiling from underneath the ground; these are the electric wires that come in contact with water, and when a dog runs around the water it will be barking at the top of it voice because of the electric shock its getting from the water. Mathare slum is an area that is equal to New York’s central park, and living in Mathare sometimes has its downsides – but, if you take the downsides, flip them upside down, and use a little creativity and resourcefulness, you might end with something that might sugar coat some of your predicaments. Take for instance the electricity issue; the effect of moving charged particles. Electricity in the 21 century is just but a mere necessity – surely you don’t expect people who live in urban centers to live without electricity regardless of the social status.
To the 70% of Kenyans who reside in the informal settlement areas living without electricity would clearly mean a gradually slow development rate of the area. Electricity in mathare is a vital to the development and security of the Mathare community as a whole. Instead of using kerosene lamps, which pollute the environment to light up room, ordinary light bulbs could do the job efficiently and not only in the houses but also in the alley ways of the slums which pose a danger to women and a security concern especially at night.
So we do know that the electricity is important for residents, but how do the residents get their electricity then? With the help of the genius of the slum who use the slum physics techniques as their guide ensure that every household in the slum is provided with electricity. The way they do it will definitely surprise you: In Kenya, electricity is supplied to the paying residents by electricity mounted poles which carry power lines. These are the lines that the slum genius tap electricity from they then subdivides it to the houses using only the positive terminal cable which runs from the pole and goes on the ground. It snakes its self beside the ever-running sewage trenches to the houses, the negative terminal in attached to the tin walls of the houses and Walla! The house has electricity. Each illegal connection has its owner who collects money from his customers. The charge is usually 200 shillings (2.50 USD) a month for a connection which is not reliable. Sometimes the cables get overloaded and get burnt or they snap but whenever there is a technical hitch, the ‘owner’ of the power line would be seen walking with his tools at hand trying to locate and fix the mishap and its better getting two lines so whenever Manya’s line is not functioning stima ya Mzae line will do the trick as long as you are will to pay for both lines failure to which you will be left in the dark.
Apart from the dogs which get shocked whenever it rains, the electricity connections in Mathare are often been blamed for causing fires in the slums, especially when the residents experience a power surges and faults. Another downside to the illegally acquired electricity is the losses that the power generating company in Kenya is incurring: in a report that came out in July 2010 indicates that the KPLC company losses almost 300 million shillings(3.75 million USD) to illegally tapped electricity and since the company did not have a budget for that cost KPLC interns taps the cost to the paying customers’ bill, so the electricity the residents get the electricity for free but it is unknowingly paid for by their leafy and their bourgeoisie counterparts. The government has often threatened to disconnect the illegal connections but even if they do so the cables would be wired back in the next one or two days.
Whatever the case, electricity is vital for the development of the third world and most activities that generate income may have a process in which electricity was required. With the electricity installed now children can study to late hours and women can walk in the alley ways without the fear that they previously had, small businesses like mobile charging, barber shops, digital ICT villages and video rooms which show European football and American Hollywood movies can operate, and I myself can enjoy my hot shower just like I like it, heated up by the water heater which drains a lot of electricity, but I don’t have to worry about that because the ones with sufficient means have got my back.