Over 2, 000 residents of Chokaa Estate in Mihang'o Ward, Nairobi have been rendered homeless and left counting losses after Kenya Power demolished buildings erected on way leaves.
The demolitions, which started Monday morning, affected about 400 families who watched helplessly as the dreaded SANY bulldozers tore down their houses.
Bulldozers moved from building to building shouldered by heavy police presence as residents salvaged the little they could.
Last week, at least 50 families were rendered homeless in the first phase of the demolitions by the power company.
Some of the residents who talked to the Nation accused Kenya Power of backtracking having assured them that their houses were not infringing on way leaves.
Mr Bonface Olusu, who watched as his house was pulled down, said that officers from Kenya Power visited them on Monday last week when they took measurements and revealed that his house was beyond the 15 metres needed for electricity line reserve.
"I have not been able to salvage anything. They said that my house was not going to be affected. But they have now changed that. It is now 20 metres and not 15 metres as they had said last week," lamented Mr Olusu.
Mr Olusu said the firm had urged owners of buildings close to 220KV power lines to demolish them voluntarily.
Another resident, Mr Saad Salim claimed that they had not been given notice of any pending eviction or demolition, saying they have lived in the area for more than five years.
"It hurts when someone just wakes up, comes and demolishes someone's house in a day. We have been living here for more than 5 years and things must be done in humane manner," he said.
But Mr Mathew Owino, whose business structure was flattened said they were given notice as early as last year but they never thought the firm would follow through.
"A notice was given to us on December 14 last year but it had taken long for them to come, so we thought that they had spared us," he said.
Marvin Kithinji, the area Kenya Power official in charge of "way leave" said residents were required to ensure that their buildings are 15 to 20 meters away from the main power line.
"Our role is to ensure that people do not encroach to the main power line. People must be 15 to 20 meters away from the main power line. Those building close to the main power line may not understand the risk they are putting themselves in by erecting structures next to main power line," he said.
Kenya Power Security Services Manager Geoffrey Kigen said that the operation, dubbed Ondokea Laini, is now in its second week with around 2, 000 illegal structures targeted for demolition.
After clearing illegal structures in Mihang'o, they will head to Mowlem and Dandora Power substation.
"We gave them notices in December last year, did sensitisations, marked the buildings on the way leaves and told the owners to remove them," said Mr Kigen.
Mr Kigen said that 300 structures were brought down last week in some parts of Buruburu Farmers land.
Kenya Power guidelines allow structures built 20 metres on either side of a 220kV power line and 15 metres on either side of a 132kV line.
"It is a multi-agency operation involving over 20 government agencies that have wayleaves which has been ongoing on unsafe buildings in Nairobi. We have removed thousands of such illegal structures and we have around 2, 000 structures pending," he said.
The power firm says there are thousands of buildings illegally built on wayleaves that stretch 5,300km countrywide.
At least 10,000 such structures extending 6km have been removed in Imara Daima, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru kwa Reuben and Sinai village.
Other areas mapped include Umoja Phase 1, Inner Core, Tena, Embakasi Baraka Estate to Tassia Estate, Mathare Valley slums.
The demolition exercise was first launched in March with the first phase carried out in Embakasi through Mukuru slums to Enterprise Road over an eight-kilometre stretch.
So far, 15,250 unsafe structures, many of them in informal settlements, have been cleared in Nairobi.
Mr Kigen said Kenya Power's way leaves have been encroached on by squatters who have put up illegal structures under its power lines, compromising its ability to deliver electricity to its customers throughout the country.
"The illegal and unsafe structures not only pose a danger to the squatters in the event of an electrical accident, but also deny us the ability to maintain our power supply lines," he said.
The agencies involved in the operation include the Nairobi City County Government, the National Building Inspectorate, the National Construction Authority, the National Environment Management Authority, the National Disaster Management Unit, Kenya Pipeline Corporation, Kenya Railway Corporation, Water Resource Authority, and the National Police Service.