Kenya: Residents Fight to Stop Sh200m Apartments Project in Nairobi

Residents of the upmarket Westlands Estate in Nairobi want the country's top environmental watchdog and the Nairobi county government to stop a private developer from erecting luxury high-rise apartments in the area.

They have filed a petition with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and City Hall opposing construction of the luxury project in the low-density area, alleging that setting up of the planned 14-storey building will destroy an adjacent riparian land in the posh neighbourhood.

Nairobi developer Vem Investments Limited in architectural details seen by Smart Business, plans to set up a Sh200 million housing project in the prime area located off General Mathenge Road.

The plot on which the project will be set up has extended all the way to join a river, which flows downstream as Nairobi River tributary.

In the petition, residents allege, the project is in an ecologically sensitive area, and will destroy the surrounding riparian land.

They insist the proposed development would irreversibly alter the character of the neighbourhood and trigger other factors, which have no acceptable mitigation recourse.

They claim there has not been public participation for the planned project as envisaged in the law.

Riparian land

"A development project of such magnitude will negatively alter character of the area around it," say the residents in the signed petition. "The riparian land together with the flora and fauna around it will be destroyed."

According to the residents, the high-end project will also interfere with the free flow of air and lighting to the adjoining properties.

"The development will drastically increase the population of the area resulting in congestion of the service road and overload of the drainage and clean water supply facilities," they claim.

Smart Business could not immediately reach the developer of the proposed project Vem Investments Limited or Nema by press time. But in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted to Nema, the developer maintained it has addressed and minimised any adverse impacts on the surrounding environment in line with the law and provided adequate measures against environmental degradation.

The report also insists the developer will put in adequate mitigation measures to protect the environment. "The proposed project will respect the riparian zone of the river. The proposed distance from the proposed project is in the range of 12 metres. This distance is ideal and preferred since the minimum distance as per the WARMA (Water Resources Authority) specifications is six metres," says the project's assessment impact report presented to Nema.

The developer also noted that contrary to the claims by the residents, all neighbours to the site within and around the proposed site were informed about the proposed project.

"As individuals, most of them supported the proposed project, citing that it's a new concept and as long as the natural environment is protected and all laws abided from the designing of the project to its implementation, it's a good project," the EIA report says. The project's EIA report, however, admits protecting the riverine area will be a key responsibility of the builders.

"The proponent is advised to ensure also that the many trees along the boundary fence and the riverine are protected and not disturbed by the proposed development as long as they are not along the foundation of the proposed project," says the EIA report.

Kenyan law

Under Kenyan law, riparian land is a public property and it may not be built on. Any construction near a water body must be between six and 30 meters from the high-water mark, depending on the type of water course according to the law.

The proposed project will have a block of apartments with a total of 64 units comprising two bedroom units and two three-bedroom units.

The site has existing old townhouses that will be demolished to pave way for the proposed project, according to the developer.

The firm argues the project is in response to demand for housing in the upmarket area.

"The proposed project has put into consideration the need to have a decent development with minimal destruction of mature vegetation (indigenous trees) and that will provide luxury living to the residents," the EIA report says.

"Westlands being a high-end residential area, the proponent has integrated a world-wide desired design usually propagated in the western countries where green areas and natural trees are prioritized in the design so that the residents can experience the outside scenario from their houses."

bnjoroge@ke.nationmedia.com

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