Scramble for riparian land raises legal issues


A section of Seefar Apartment in Nyayo Highrise, Nairobi on October 27, 2018 that were earmarked for demolition. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The National Land Commission (NLC) has identified land left behind by receding water bodies as a new source of controversy and concern.

According to the authority, the crisis had been compounded by lack of clear guidelines on where riparian land begins against water levels.

This emerged during the Environment and Land Court judges’ annual conference in Naivasha where stakeholders noted an increase in environmental cases.

NLC Chairman Gershom Otachi said receding waters of the Indian Ocean had left major spaces that attracted the interest of investors.

Addressing the workshop, Otachi identified Malindi and Lamu as some of the affected areas noting that there was confusion as to whether this was private or public land.

“Some hoteliers have approached us seeking that we extend the lease to the land left behind by the receding oceans and the Environment and Land Courts can help resolve this,” he said.

He added that the same issue had been reported in Lake Magadi with the water body being a public resource yet it was located within a private entity.

“On the coast, the ocean has reclaimed some villages and it’s time we resolved the issue of riparian land by addressing whether the lake boundaries are static,” he said.

Private entities

National Environment Mangement Authority Director-General Mamo Boru Mamo expressed his concern over the continued pollution of Nairobi River by private and government entities.

He pointed to the Chiromo area where a mortuary was releasing its effluent into the river, adding that the pungent smell was a threat to many investors in the region.

“We are working closely with the Environment and Land Courts in dealing with these polluters who have decided to use Nairobi River as their dumping site,” he said. Mamo noted that the ban on plastic bags a few years ago was timely, adding that the country was churning out over 100 million bags of plastic bags which was a major threat to the environment.

“We have a robust legal system to deal with those breaking the law thanks to the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act,” he said. The Presiding Judge of the Environment and Land Court Oscar Ongote said the courts had achieved a lot in protecting land management.

“The Environment and Land courts have done extremely well in clearing land and environment cases and they are now the beacons of environmental governance in the region,” he said.