On Monday, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) descended in Kileleshwa with bulldozers and brought down the popular joint Java and Shell Fuel station.
According to NEMA officials, the two buildings (businesses) had been constructed on riparian land, an interface between land and the river.
The bulldozers caught the business owners and customers unaware but the demolition has brought to the surface a thorny debate that most stakeholders often brush aside.
What is riparian land?
According to Encyclopedia, the riparian land is a terrain that is adjacent to rivers and streams and is subject to periodic or occasional flooding.
A riparian land can also be described as the interface between them and the river or stream. A building or structure constructed on the riparian land, therefore, is one that is set to change the course of the river or water flow during the rainy season leading to flooding.
Riparian Land in Nairobi
For a very long time, there has been a silent debate of powerful and influential people who have constructed multibillion structures right on the riverbanks or waterways.
In June 2018, the parliamentary committee on environment and resources raised an alarm and identified the following areas as riparian lands and ones that have been taken over by ‘private developers’:
As NEMA kicked off the exercise it says is aimed at reclaiming riparian land, Kenyans feel that it is an exercise in futility given the number of sacred cows that have been spared over the years.
For instance, the former Bobasi Member of Parliament Stephen Manoti constructed a 1 billion shilling 5- storey building at the Mbagathi Way, Lang’ata Road junction, opposite T-Mall. The building was constructed despite opposition from both the environmentalists as well a city MCA. The building has since been occupied by tenants.
There is another multi-billion block that is said to be sitting on the riverbed of Ngong River. The building was outlawed by NEMA but Water Resources Authority allowed it to be constructed. The building has been blamed for deadly floods that rocked South C and Nairobi West.
Other buildings said to be sitting on rivers are Nakumatt UKAY as well as South End Mall that is opposite T-Mall. The two often flood in the basement every time it rains but Kenyans say NEMA has been reluctant in taking action.
Others raised by Kenyans include houses on Lower Kabete Road opposite entrance to Hillview, the KAM House next to UKAY, and the Oshwal Centre among others.
4,000 houses Build on Rivers in Nairobi
Records show that about 4,000 buildings have been constructed on riparian land within Nairobi. NEMA says that it has already earmarked the buildings for demolition with the operation expected to take at least two months.
The demolition follows President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order to reclaim the dying Nairobi River. A team selected to oversee the process identified 600 pollution points along the stream, mostly from estates.
But questions still abound:
Other buildings on road reserves
There are other buildings that have been said to be sitting on a road reserve but haven’t been demolished. The buildings include Taj Mall, Standard Media Group, Naivas Outer Ring, and Sameer Business Park.