Kiambu County Governor Ferdinand Waititu wants the government to change the course of rivers rather than flatten buildings constructed on riparian land.
Mr Waititu, who spoke on Sunday in Gikambura, Kikuyu Constituency in the presence of Deputy President William Ruto, said he opposes the ongoing demolitions.
He warned that drastic actions were not a solution to the problems bedeviling the country.
The governor claimed that the law protecting wetlands and river beds was introduced ten years ago and should not be used to punish developers.
“Nairobi used to be freehold land. It used to have huge parcels of land. You can’t just rush to demolish houses yet some of these pieces of land were on freehold. This thing called riparian of 30 metres was introduced during the Michuki era as environment minister,” he said.
Govenor Waititu spoke just hours after President Uhuru Kenyatta had vowed to intensify the demolitions and crackdown on corruption, even at the risk of losing more friends.
The county boss is so far the only high ranking official to oppose a government policy. Mr Waititu proposed that landlords be allowed to change the course of rivers instead of destroying their buildings.
“I cannot support demolition of buildings built on riparian reserve as some people are doing. Things should be looked into and if your house is near the river, you should be told to foot the cost of ‘relocating’ the river a little bit,” he said.
“As someone who has a history about the city, having been born there and served as a deputy mayor; if some people support the demolitions we are witnessing, personally I don’t. If your house is next to a river, let them tell you to cater for the cost of diverting it slightly but not demolishing your building. Honestly speaking, demolishing the buildings is such a big loss to the owners”.
Even in the face of backlash from users on social media, the governor yesterday stuck to his guns saying his proposal was practical and had been done abroad. Waititu said demolitions should be a last resort after all other avenues like diverting the course of a river, had been explored.
He suggested that developers be forced to construct artificial embankments for rivers away from the structures. “I think the developer can be forced to do something because even abroad you can see rivers passing near buildings,” he said.
Waititu was criticised by residents after a video of him opposing the demolitions went viral on many social media forums among them Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
His statetment contradicts President Kenyatta who last week said demolition of properties built on riparian land will go on. “We will continue to demolish properties constructed on riparian lands, equally punish officials who made approvals for those properties,” warned Kenyatta.
The president said the demolition exercise is part of the fight against corruption and impunity and that the government is committed to ensuring that people can conduct clean business in the country.
The President’s sentiments came even as demolition of buildings in Nairobi continued. The demolitions started on Monday last week as the National Environment Management Authority set out to reclaim illegally occupied wetlands in the city.
Last week, Southend Mall in Lang’ata, Ukay Centre, parts of Visa Oshwal Centre in Westlands, Java Restaurant and a petrol station in Kileleshwa were pulled down.