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Donholm residents should sue city fathers

By Harold Ayodo | June 11th 2015

The ongoing heavy rains have exposed Nairobi City’s poor drainage system, with residents forced to live in deplorable conditions. Most of them face health risks as blocked sewers burst open, spewing raw sewage.

But nowhere has this problem been more severe than Donholm where many landlords are counting losses after tenants moved out in droves citing burst sewer lines.

Donholm is a unique case as the sewerage and drainage systems are constrained due to poor planning in the area.

The estate is home to towering flats going up to 10 floors while the drainage system was meant for maisonettes and bungalows.

The residents and investors have shouted themselves hoarse and not even complaining on Twitter has helped.

They have made several trips to the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company offices to register their complaints about the company’s failure to repair faulty sewer lines in the estate. But all has been in vain.

The residents should now move to court to compel the concerned authorities to perform their duties. Article 42 of the Constitution provides that every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, while Article 69 provides for obligations in respect of the environment.

The Constitution also offers legal redress for people whose right to a clean and healthy environment is infringed.

The court may issue orders or directions to prevent or stop any act or omission harmful to the environment or even force relevant public officers to act. Moreover, Article 70(c) of the Constitution provides for compensation for any victim of a violation of the right to a clean and healthy environment.

The Constitution further buttresses the case for a clean environment under Article 43(b), which provides for accessible, adequate housing and reasonable standards of sanitation.

Since Article 69(1) (g) obligates the State to eliminate processes and activities likely to endanger the environment. Donholm residents should not sleep on their rights.

They should follow the example of residents in Ronda Estate in Nakuru town, who four years ago moved to the High Court after authorities violated their rights to a clean and healthy environment.

The residents, who filed the suit before Justice William Ouko, sued the Nakuru Municipal Council, Attorney General, Environment minister and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

They petitioned the High Court to declare that the respondents violated their right to a clean and healthy environment by failing to provide a proper drainage system.

The residents also said that the municipality wasted their properties by failure to construct a proper drainage system.

They also sought orders to compel the municipality to construct a proper drainage system and also direct Nema to visit the area and conduct an environmental impact assessment.

Justice Ouko said that the case had merit and referred it to the Chief Justice to appoint a panel of judges to hear and determine the petition.

Therefore, Donholm residents (and many others affected countrywide) may borrow a leaf from their Nakuru counterparts and demonstrate to the court the violation of their constitutional rights.

They can also prove that their rights have been denied, infringed or threatened by actions or omissions of the authorities.

-The writer is an advocate of the High Court.

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