The axe should fall on officials who issued approvals for illegal structures

The demolition of structures on riparian land is ongoing
The demolition of structures on riparian land is ongoing

The destruction of illegal structures on riparian land in Nairobi has caught the eye and caused a stir among Kenyans. NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) has proceeded with the destruction of the buildings, which are on riparian land, the land that covers the region that stretches from a minimum of six metres to a maximum of thirty metres on either side of the watercourse banks from the highest water level.

The operation which is set to intensify in the coming days has led to the destruction of South End Mall along Lang’ata road, Shell Petrol station, and on Friday, Nakumatt Ukay Mall in Westlands was toppled. Its clear in the constitution that riparian land is public land, but what is still puzzling is why were structures erected in the designated pieces of land? Why didn’t NEMA halt the constructions before they were set up years ago?

The bulk of the burden remains with the officers who oversaw the building of the structures. On Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that the setting up of structures along the river beds has contributed to the constant flooding in the city, and rightly concluded that those who made the approvals will be targeted, “We are not just going to punish those who built. I know many are claiming they were given permits, those permits were given illegally but by government officers. So I want to assure you that we are going after all those who issued those permits,” he said.

If and when the intent is brought to fruition, the justice weigh will be balanced, because it’s clear that riparian land is public entity, but it’s also evident that some officers slept on their job.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has also taken action and called for thorough investigations, after consultations with Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, “I have directed the Director of Criminal Investigations to immediately commence comprehensive investigations to establish the circumstances, the procedures and the persons who irregularly and/or illegally issued the approvals for the construction of any buildings and/or structures on the riparian land….” With the state fully on board, Kenyans will hope that the trend of overlooking clear law guidelines won’t be a norm in the future. And the land once reclaimed should be put to good use, to benefit Kenyans and mainly, Nairobi County residents.