About 4,000 buildings are earmarked for demolition in an operation to clear illegal structures from river banks in Nairobi.
The operation expected to take two months
kicked off yesterday in Kileleshwa.
A Java coffee house within the Shell petrol station and perimeter walls of several residential apartments in the upmarket estate were pulled down.
Some of the apartments were discharging effluent into the river.
Several kiosks, billboards and a swimming pool were also cleared.
The operation is led by the Nairobi Regeneration team appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta last December to clean and reclaim Nairobi River
among other things.
The scenic river's path has been invaded by dumping and unscrupulous developers.
In May, the team identified over 600 pollution points along the stream and acknowledged the urgency of the clean-up.
Nairobi Central Business District chief Julius Wanjau, who is in charge of the operation, said the owners of the buildings had been issued with three months and extra seven days notices to vacate.
The notices have expired.
"We are going to continue with demolitions until we reach the National Museum. Then we will move to Gikomba, Ruai and Nairobi West," Wanjau said.
Wanjau acknowledged that bribery was the major challenge he and his officers face in executing the demolition order.
"I am being called by strange numbers telling me to stop this exercise so that we can talk. I am receiving money on Mpesa from new numbers and I'm forced to send back," he said.
The demolitions will be a litmus test to both the national and county governments that have for decades been accused of looking aside to allow developments on riparian reserves, especially those owned by wealthy politicians and government officials.
The state and City Hall have also been accused of abetting land grabbing and encroachment on public land and road reserves.
As a consequence of the dereliction of duty, several buildings have collapses in various parts of the city with fatalities recorded.
According to the National buildings inspectorate and the multi-sectoral committee on unsafe structures, more than 3000 building have been marked as unsafe for occupation, but only a handful have been demolished.
Wanjau said that the operation has been okayed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and a budget provided.
A team of 80 armed police officers and 100 city county inspectorate officers have been attached to the demolition team to provide security.
The regeneration exercise received Sh800 million in 2018-19 financial year.
In June, National Environmental Management Authority director general Geoffrey Wahungu promised to publish names of influential people who have encroached on river banks. He had been put to task by a parliamentary committee over the authority's failure to pull down structures erected next to waterways.
"Nema and the Water Resources Management Authority suffer because of accusations. I request the committee to help the National Building Inspectorate to implement the report," he said.
Several buildings stand on wetlands while some sit right on the river bed contrary to environmental laws that set a distance of 30 metres between riparian land and human activities.
However, according to the Agriculture Act, the distance should be a minimum of two metres and a maximum of 30 metres.
According to Nema Communications officer Evan Nyabuto, both the Ukay and Westgate shopping malls in Westlands lie on wetland and have been mapped and marked for demolition.
However, the owners have obtained court orders stopping the authorities from pulling them down.
Other structures include godowns opposite the Kamukunji police station and five flats.
According to sources within Nema, the mapping and marking of illegal structures is still going on to reclaim Nairobi.
In June, the parliamentary committee on environment and natural resources was alarmed by the extent of encroachment when it toured waterways.
It identified Limuru Road, Lang’ata Road, Arboretum Road, Spring Valley, Globe Cinema Round-About, Riverside Drive, Westlands, Parklands, Fuata Nyayo estate in South B, Village market, Gem Suites in Riverside and Alina Villas in Spring Valley as among the areas with developments sitting on river banks.
Committee chairperson Kareke Mbiuki said yesterday that owners of the structures built on the river banks have been summoned to appear before the committee next Monday.
Former Bobasi MP Stephen Manoti's Sh1 billion five-story building at the Mbagathi-Way – Langata Road junction opposite T-Mall that was constructed despite opposition by environmentalists and city MCAs has now been occupied.
Conflict between Nema and Water Resources Authority is said to have given way to the block that is alleged to be sitting on the Ngong River bed. Nema is said to have outlawed the building only for WRA to approve it.
In April 2015, the building was blamed for the deadly flooding in South C and Nairobi West.
About 2,000 developed plots are said to be on wetlands.