Residents protest at ‘illegal’ development

By Millicent Muthoni

The Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) has condemned the construction of Alina Villas, a 10-unit development on plot number LR.209/12184 at the corner of Lower Kabete Road and Loresho Ridge citing environmental degradation.

The development, which sits astride Kibarage River, belongs to Nairobi businessman Ayaz Merali and has been controversial since its onset in July 2007. The area residents say the development is illegal. They further claim development control officials have been compromised and allowed a project, which is not in the public interest, to proceed.

"This development is wrong on many fronts and we are hopeful we can lobby the concerned agencies and ministries to stop it," said Stephen Mutoro, the CEO of Kara at a protest meeting of stakeholders last week.

Controversial construction

Residents say the construction interferes with the riparian belt and is thus a threat to the wetlands. It also eats into three road reserves — the Kyuna Road, Lower Kabete Road, and a demarcated road supposed to bridge the two.

Present at the meeting were officials from the City Council of Nairobi, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA), Rugita Water Project and resident associations from Lower Kabete, Lavington and Loresho.

The developer secured the required approval from the City Council and Nema, a fact that is boldly displayed on the signboard on site.

Dr Ayub Macharia, the director in charge of education, information and public participation at Nema, advised that if Nema does not revoke the EIA that was approved on May 23, 2007, the residents should appeal.

"Today is a day for honesty and so I will accept that our organisation has passed a controversial construction," he said. He asked Kara to seek redress through the National Environment Tribunal. However, the residents lamented they have written to the tribunal and received not even an acknowledgement.

Issue guidelines

An official from WRMA clarified that though the organisation cannot stop the development, it can issue guidelines for the optimum use of wetlands, addressing such issues as storm water drainage, activities allowable, disposal of septic waste and the best way to protect the river. Should the guidelines be ignored, then WRMA can take the developer to court.

"We learnt of the dispute in November, last year, and visited the site. When we saw the riparian reserve had not been well demarcated and that the water resource was affected, we asked the developer to give us a soil and water conservation plan, but he hasn’t," said Kinyua, a WRMA representative. "Nema did not consult us before issuing the license."

"We ask that the developer stops construction forthwith and that Nema stops the development pending review of the EIA," said Mutoro.

Riparian reserve

When the protesters marched to the site, they found it guarded by public security and were denied access.

Earlier this month, the Government took another developer, Stephen Kinuthia, to court for interfering with the riparian reserve by constructing a concrete wall along Kibarage River.

The balance between private development of land and environmental protection has been threatened by the proliferation of private developments in the city, driven more by income generation rather than and public good.

Usually, the environment and natural resources are the first to suffer. Regulatory agencies while facilitating private developers. should ensure that there is order in growth. Our environment is more important than any individual.

Last Friday, Nema directed the developer to ‘cease construction activities on the site immediately’ and undertake a fresh EIA of the project ‘to facilitate in-depth evaluation of the potential impacts associated with the project.’

In a brief sent to media houses last Friday, Nema noted "It has come to the knowledge of the Authority that the project poses environmental threats which could not be reasonably foreseen at the time of the study and review".

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