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Church development project creates conflict with residents of Karen

By Jeckonia Otieno | Published Tue, February 13th 2018 at 08:07, Updated February 13th 2018 at 08:10 GMT +3
The ongoing development by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Karen's Mukoma. [Jeckonia Otieno, Standard]

Trouble is brewing between the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Karen Langata District Association over what the latter terms contempt of court.

The church, which is putting up a retreat centre on property along Mukoma Road, has continued with its construction activities despite an order by the National Environmental Tribunal to stop any further activity at the construction site.

In a letter addressed to Zablon Mabea and Okengo Matiang’i, the tribunal states: “Take note that the National Environmental Tribunal has received an appeal filed by Prof Albert Mumma suing in his capacity as the chairman, Karen Lang'ata District Association (KLDA), on February 6, 2018 against NEMA’s decision to grant you an environmental impact assessment (EIA) licence for construction of a church and related facilities on LR No 11914/71 along Mukoma Road in Karen, Nairobi County, which is based on false information and outside the laid down procedures and applicable regulations.”

A visit by Metropolitan to the site established that the development work was still going on as late as Sunday evening despite the fact that the order was served early last week. The residents said they had no option but to seek legal redress.

Njoki Mukiri, the NEMA director for Nairobi County, confirmed that the NEMA licence granted was genuine. The licence was issued on November 20, 2017, based on an environmental impact assessment report received from Zablon A Mabea and Okengo Matiang’i.

Rushed project

A licence from the Nairobi City County’s urban planning department was issued on May 18, 2017 in the name of Zablon Mubea (sic) – with a signature on behalf of the director of urban planning.

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KLDA’s Duncan Munyua says the association does not oppose development but calls for order. He takes issue with the fact that the construction is being rushed in the face of a court order in a manner that raises eyebrows as to whether the law has been followed.

Being a controlled development area, Munyua says Karen residents cannot allow haphazard development to turn the area into a concrete jungle.

“Most of Nairobi has gone to the dogs because people are not following the law and this cannot be allowed in Karen. They should be aware that a local physical development plan is still in force until a new one come into force and until then the law must be followed,” says Munyua.

One of the most vocal opponents of the development by the church was Esmond Bradley Martin, who was the next door neighbour of the project site. At the time of his murder earlier this month, Mr Martin was fundraising to help KLDA hire lawyers to take up the matter in court.

Public participation

Section 129 (4) of Environmental Management and Coordination Act states that upon any appeal to the tribunal under this section the status of any matter or activity, which is the subject of the appeal, shall be maintained until the appeal is determined.

The residents association accuses the church of not initiating public participation before the environment licence was given. Munyua says such participation is key as it allows members to air their concerns and is also envisaged in the Constitution. 

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