Air polluters face Sh4m fine or four-year jail term in new rules

A cloud of smoke is released by a factory into the air. [Getty Images]

The government is seeking to implement tighter controls on emissions from industries, aimed at reducing air pollution in urban areas.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) is reviewing regulations governing industrial emissions and has proposed tougher requirements and new models of surveillance to ensure compliance.

The environmental watchdog has also proposed harsher penalties for companies that will fail to comply with the new regulations.

This is aimed at reducing air pollution and improving air quality - mostly in urban areas with high levels of industrialisation.

“Industrial growth and increase in air pollution resulting to negative impacts on public health have necessitated the need to have the regulations reviewed to address existing gaps that have become apparent,” said Nema in a regulatory impact assessment on Air Quality Regulations, 2022.

“The regulations objective is to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution to ensure clean and healthy ambient air.”

The move aims at promoting sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment while reducing environmental damage.

The new regulations have also increased the penalties for those who contravene the provisions of the subsidiary law. Offenders will pay Sh4 million or serve a jail term of four years.

This is in comparison to the current scenario where offenders pay a fine of Sh500,000 or serve a jail term of six months.

“A person who fails to comply with the provisions of these regulations commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh4 million or to imprisonment not exceeding four years or to both such fine and imprisonment,” reads the draft regulations that have now been subjected to a public participation phase.

While there has been a rapid growth industries necessitating Nema’s review of air quality regulations, the State has been slow on oversight and failed to act on players whose emissions are above the permissible levels.

According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2022, diseases of the respiratory system accounted for 21.9 per cent of the total disease caseload last year or about 20.6 million cases reported in health facilities.

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