The demolition of illegal structures on river banks in Nairobi continued in earnest yesterday. The five-storey Southend Mall that epitomised the impunity of the adversaries of environmental preservation and common public opinion came down. Its destruction after nearly eight years of protest signifies the government’s commitment to correct the mistakes of the past for posterity. And that’s a good thing.
But the demolitions also raise sore questions: What next? Will the government pursue those responsible for authorising these illegalities whose belated correction is costing many livelihoods and investments?
In the South End Mall case, tenants have claimed they were not notified by the landlord or Nema of the impending demolition when they occupied the building or at all. They paid deposits, modified the premises to suit their needs and marketed their businesses. Then the bulldozer suddenly showed up. How will they recoup their losses? Who should have warned the tenants? Why were they licensed to operate businesses on condemned premises?
Whereas the exercise must continue for public good, the authorities must demonstrate that they have discharged their duty by alerting affected parties in advance of demolition to minimise losses. Specifically, Nema must post notices on illegal buildings or those they intend to pull down to alert the public.
The authorities must also outline the sustainable measures being taken to deter and avert future encroachments on riparian and other public utilities. These should include preventive and remedial measures.
Quote of the Day: “People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.”
Hermann Karl Hesse
The German-Swiss novelist and poet died on August 9, 1962.