ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN

Sweets firm stopped from building godown and ordered to restore Kilifi wetland

Nema says the sweets processor failed to adhere to conditions set during approval.

In Summary

 

• Some 300 Kwa Kadzengo families had complained that the backfilling of the wetland would result in flooding during rainy seasons.

• The Sh2 billion Mzuri Sweets Ltd was supposed to create an artificial wetland of either the same size or bigger but did not comply with the Nema requirement.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has stopped the construction of a godown and backfilling of a Kilifi wetland by a sweet-processing company.

The sweet-processing factory that is being constructed at the backfilled section of the Kwa Kadzengo swamp.
DESTRUCTIVE SITE: The sweet-processing factory that is being constructed at the backfilled section of the Kwa Kadzengo swamp.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO
Members of Nema board at the backfilled section of the Kwa Kadzengo swamp in Kilifi on Tuesday.
BACKFILLED SWAMP: Members of Nema board at the backfilled section of the Kwa Kadzengo swamp in Kilifi on Tuesday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

The National Environment Management Authority has stopped the construction of a godown and backfilling of a Kilifi wetland by a sweet-processing company.

Nema's Tuesday decision was prompted by complaints from 300 families at Kwa Kadzengo in Mtepeni ward that the backfilling of the wetland by Mzuri Sweets Ltd would result in flooding during rainy seasons.

The Sh2 billion company had been backfilling the Kwa Kadzengo swamp along the Mombasa-Malindi highway.

Nema chairman John Konchella and his board inspected the wetland and ordered the construction to stop, accusing the company of not adhering to some conditions of its establishment.

Konchella said the godown had encroached on 30 metres of the riparian reserve. He ordered Mzuri Sweets to restore the backfilled section of the wetland to its original state within 30 days.

Mzuri Sweets was supposed to create an artificial wetland of either the same size or bigger than the one they were to backfill.

They did not do so, according to Nema acting director of compliance and enforcement Zephania Ouma.

Ouma said the environmental impact assessment report is not a blank cheque for developers to ignore.

“We have confirmed that a number of these conditions have not been met and that is why we are here,” Ouma said.

In April, Mtepeni ward representative Victor Mwaganda led residents in protesting against the backfilling of the swamp.

“If this swamp is backfilled, the water will have to find alternative routes and this will create flooding in the surrounding villages,” Mwaganda said.

On Wednesday, he told the Star the company was supposed to establish a dam before going ahead with the construction of the godown at the backfilled swamp.

“The last time I engaged them, they were doing the dam. The land is theirs. They have a title deed and the swamp is not gazetted,” Mwaganda said by phone.

Ouma said the backfilling and the construction of an artificial wetland was to be done after the implementation of several safeguards.

He said the EIA does not give a developer a free will to do wrong things.

“Although the wetland has not been gazetted, the law provides Nema with the mandate to protect it.” 

Mzuri Sweets CEO Hiten Solanki, human resource manager George Ongany and the factory manager maintained they had complied with all Nema directives issued on April 15.

Solanki said: “The purported stop order issued on April 20, was not a stop order but an improvement notice which we complied and proceeded with the project.”

He said the notice directed him to create a wetland of the same size or more than the proposed area to be backfilled.

According to him, they created more than two-thirds of artificial wetland and that the National Construction Authority issued a compliance certificate on May 27.

“The Kilifi county government also gave us the greenlight to proceed with the project,” he said.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohammed Hersi said on Wednesday that protection of the environment is key for the development of a tourist destination.

“While I am one big supporter of ‘Buy Kenya, Build Kenya’, I also detest any firm or organisation that does not care for the environment. We must protect the environment,” Hersi said.

He said wetlands provide habitat for thousands of species of aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals, which are tourist attractions.

“Wetlands are valuable for flood protection, water quality improvement, protection from erosion and many other benefits,” Hersi said.

Solanki said the construction of the Sh2 billion Mzuri Sweets Limited is 80 per cent complete and that the firm will directly employ more than 1,000 people in Kilifi.

The CEO said they will be producing cakes and will require between 200,000 and 400,000 eggs daily from the local community.

He appealed to Nema to relook into their directive and allow the project to be completed.

“We are born Kenyans and have stayed in Kilifi for years. We are here to make sure the environment is taken care of, create more jobs and improve livelihood of the community through farming since we will require two to three canters of eggs daily,” he said.

 

- mwaniki fm