Wednesday, November 15, 2006

KENYA Nuclear waste in NEP claim denied

The Government of Kenya has denied claims that nuclear waste was dumped in North Eastern Province.

It has also declined to send specialists to the region to investigate reports that radiation from the waste was behind an increase in cancer and tuberculosis cases in the province.

MPs Ukur Yatani (North Horr, Kanu) and Peter Odoyo (Nyakach, Narc) asked the Government to investigate companies prospecting for oil, which they blamed for the dumping.

"There have been reports that nuclear waste was dumped in the area since 1997 by companies prospecting for oil. Can the assistant minister confirm or deny that the waste is the cause of cancer in the region?" asked Mr Yatani.

(Mr.Yattani has immediately been appointed an Assistant Minister today morning..)

Mr Odoyo said that he had carried out studies that have shown that cancer, especially of the oesophagus, was caused by radiation from such waste material.

But Kenya's Health assistant minister Enock Kibunguchy said that as a doctor, he could not agree that cancer and tuberculosis in the region were caused by radiation from waste material.

"We deal with facts in this House and not unconfirmed reports. As far as I know, there is no exact cause of cancer," he said and questioned Mr Odoyo's assertion that he knew the cause when he was not a medical doctor.

But Mr Odoyo insisted that he had carried out adequate research to back his stand.

"Can the assistant minister also say that he was a master of parliamentary rules by the time he came to this House?" he asked.

Dr Kibunguchy asked the MP to go back to his research papers "before engaging in ping pong" about the causes of cancer.

However, he agreed with Mr Odoyo that radiation could cause cancer.

Mr Yatani had wanted to know the steps the ministry was taking to reduce the number of deaths caused by cancer of the throat, which he said had become a major killer in Marsabit District of Northern Kenya.

He asked the assistant minister to send specialists to the region to assess the situation.

Dr Kibunguchy said killer diseases in the region were pulmonary tuberculosis, malaria, anaemia and immuno-deficiencies.

Cases of cancer in the area were declining, he said, adding that the National Cancer Prevention and Control Committee was set up last year to check the disease.

A resident surgeon was posted to Marsabit District Hospital early this year and workers were being trained to deal with the disease.

Answering a separate question, Water assistant minister Aden Sugow said the ministry was replacing old water pipes in most parts of the region as part of water reforms being implemented by the Government.

"The ministry is not aware of any of its officers who have been given the task of collecting money. Those are con men who are out to fleece the public and should be reported to nearest water officers or police stations," he said.

He was answering Mr Odoyo, who wanted to know the steps the ministry was taking to stop the erratic rise of water bills.

Reports by Bernard Namunane and Odhiambo Orlale
Kenya's Parliament.