Why urinating in the open could land you 90 days in jail

Do you have a habit of answering the call of nature in the open? If MPs pass a Bill currently before the House, you will be liable to 90 days in jail or a fine of Sh5,000 or both.

The Environmental Health and Sanitation Bill, 2023 sponsored by Mukurwe-ini MP John Kaguchia seeks to ensure that all Kenyans enjoy their right to reasonable standards of sanitation, cleanliness and a healthy environment.

According to the Bill, if enacted into law, it will be an offence for any person to urinate or defecate in the open on private property or on public property, in any street, sidewalk, road, park, beach, water body or any other place open to the public.

The Bill also targets a person who permits any urine or faecal matter to flow or drain into any lake, river, stream or watercourse or public place and fails to clean or remove the material deposited immediately.

“A person who contravenes the sub-sections shall be guilty of a crime and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not less than Sh5,000 or imprisonment for a term of three months or both,” reads the Bill.

The Bill goes ahead to state that every county government, city or urban authority shall establish interventions to promote the elimination of open defecation.

Open defecation refers to the practice of depositing human stool in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water, or other open spaces, particularly in areas where there is no access to improved disposal systems.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 420 million people in the world practice open defecation.

This act possesses a serious risk to public health as it has the potential risk of contaminating drinking water, leading to spread of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), faecal contamination of the environment and poor hygiene practices remain a leading cause of child mortality, morbidity, under nutrition and stunting, and can potentially have negative effects on cognitive development

The United Nations calls for elimination of open defecation by 2025 and has incorporated this in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

The Bill also prohibits use of untreated waste water or sludge on agricultural land unless confirmed that it meets the set standards.

“No person shall sell or supply sludge for use on agricultural land if he or she knows or has reason to believe that such is untreated or that the requirements above will not be fulfilled when this is so used,” reads the Bill.

The proposed legislation states that where the use of sludge or wastewater is permissible on agricultural land, it shall be applied in such a way that account is taken of the nutrient needs of the plants and that the quality of the soil and of the surface and ground water is not impaired.

“A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and shall be liable to fine not less than Sh500,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 months or both,” reads the Bill.

Further, the Bill seeks to implement the provision of the constitution which requires the state to take necessary legislative, policy and other measures including the setting of standards to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of rights, which include the right to a clean and healthy environment.

The main objective of the Bill is to prevent and reduce health risks associated with environmental hazards and to tackle the social and economic costs of preventable diseases associated with poor sanitation and environmental pollution.



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