21 February 2019

Kenya: Nema Halts Market Project on Disused Cemetery

The national environmental watchdog has stopped the construction of a market on cemetery land in Taveta.

Nema has now ordered the Taita Taveta County government to conduct an environmental impact assessment before it embarks on the the Sh1.3 million stalls project in Bura Ndogo village.

Nema county coordinator Edith Kalo said the agency had issued the order to the county's trade department.

Ms Kalo said a number of procedures were not followed before the project started.

REPORT

"They must also indicate that they want to convert the cemetery into a market so the assessment report must be accompanied by a social cultural impact report," she added.

The Nema official said county officials must also show how they will dispose of the remains exhumed during the construction of the market.

She said if the officials fail to address these issues, the authority will take measures, including seeking a court order, to stop the project.

"If they fail to comply then we will seek other measures to enforce the directive. This will include moving to court," she said.

Residents had complained that the contractor had started exhuming the remains of their relatives.

The Bura Ndogo cemetery had ran out of space before a new burial ground allocated in the 1980s.

Residents who spoke to the Nation associated cemeteries with bad omens and said they feared the project might draw calamities to the area.

"We might face a disaster for disturbing the dead. No one is ready to do business on that piece of land because it might not thrive," said a resident, Mr Barnabas Maimbo.

TRADERS

However, county land executive Gertrude Shuwe said it was the traders who proposed that the market be built on the piece of land.

Ms Shuwe said a public participation forum was held before money were set aside for the project.

"They (traders) do not have a permanent area to do their business, so they proposed the area. The county government is implementing what was proposed by the traders," she

Ms Shuwe said the exhumed remains will be buried elsewhere and noted that the county is working with Nema to ensure that all requirements are followed.

Bomeni Ward manager Peter Mutie, however, said the project will continue despite the opposition and that the remains will be buried nearby after a cleansing ceremony.

"We will sacrifice a sheep there to chase away any calamity before we bury the remains," he said.

Mr Mutie warned those opposing the project that they will not succeed as the contractor was already on the site.

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