WIN FOR FISHERMEN

Reprieve for Kisumu fishermen as court restrains KPA from evicting them

The Kichinjio Beach is a designated fish landing station as stipulated in the Fourth Schedule.

In Summary

• In September last year, the KPA had ordered fishermen and other people using the site to vacate and then fence off the area.

• Environmentalist Michael Nyanguti sued KPA ports manager KPA as the first respondent and the officer in charge of Railways Station Kisumu as the respondent.

Fishermen going about their activities in Lake Victoria
Fishermen going about their activities in Lake Victoria
Image: FILE

It is a win for Kisumu fisherfolk after a court restrained the Kenya Ports Authority from engaging in activities that may be harmful to Lake Victoria riparian wetland.

In September last year, KPA had ordered fishermen and other people using the Kichinjio beach management unit landing site to vacate and fenced the area.

“I do grant prayers that the respondents be and are hereby restrained from evicting the BMU members from Kichinjio fish landing site and taking over the properties therein without provision of a suitable relocation site with requisite enabling facilities for sanitary operation and within the requirements of the relevant law,” Lands and Environment Court Judge Antony Omwayo ruled. 

Environmentalist Michael Nyanguti sued, seeking to protect the gazetted BMU, its membership and the surrounding environment from degradation.

He sued KPA ports manager KPA as the first respondent and the officer in charge of Railways Station Kisumu as the respondent.

Nyanguti said the respondents had threatened/violated the rule of law and the Constitution by threatening the BMU members with forced eviction without an alternative relocation site.

He also argued that they were reclaiming the lake riparian wetland without following laid out procedure, thus destroying it.

“To the extent that the respondents' actions are against the law, the respondents have engaged in administrative action that is not expeditious, efficient, lawful reasonable and procedurally fair to the fisher communities,” he argued.

He noted the fisher communities’ right to exploitation of wetlands as a source of livelihoods had been infringed and that there is a likelihood of total loss of dependency on the wetland.

“Should the wetland be reclaimed, there will be resultant further dwindling of fish stock in Lake Victoria that will expose the fisherfolk communities to loss of livelihood and income from fishing," he told the court.

He said the wetland, as it currently is, plays an important role in removing heavy metal substances from the sewage and municipal runoff water a function that the reclamation would eliminate.

This, he said, would expose the residents and fish to heavy metal contamination and health complications.

Lands and Environment Court Judge Antony Omwayo in his ruling said the action by the respondents was a breach to the provision of Article 43 of the Constitution that provides for economic rights.

Justice Omwayo said KPA ports manager misapprehended and misconceived the nature of the petition as the petitioner was not claiming land perse but their right to use the beach as a fish landing base.

The Kichinjio Beach is a designated fish landing station as stipulated in the Fourth Schedule.

“This court finds that the site being designated as a fish landing base, the petitioners are entitled to use it as a fish landing base until an alternative site is availed to them or a fair procedure is undertaken to de-gazette the site,” Omwayo ruled.

“Moreover, the same was a breach to the right to a fair administrative action as no notice was given to the petitioner and that the beach was not degazetted as a fish landing site and no alternative site was given,” he added.

The judge further said the respondents were in breach of the Constitution by issuing a verbal quit notice and fencing the fish landing site as no reason was given and that the procedure of closure was unfair.

Edited by E.Kibii