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WAS TO BE DEMOLISHED

Seefar apartment owners wait on Nema to act

In Summary

• Nema and WRA had argued that the apartments (three blocks of 12 floors) were standing on the riparian reserve of both the Nairobi Dam and Ngong River, be demolished. 

• MPs say the Nairobi dam be sacrificed to save the property.  

Seefar Apartments
Seefar Apartments
Image: FILE

Mercy Karimi, a resident at the condemned Seefar Apartments in Nyayo Highrise woke up on Monday confident that her prayers would be answered and her flat spared from demolition. 

She and other homeowners made their way to National Environmental Authority hoping to save their residence. 

They were wrong. Their pleas would not be heard. Her Sh5.3 million worth of investment would soon be turned into rubble.

 

“I am still paying loans up to date yet there is no tenant. I bought the house in 2014,” a dejected Karimi told the Star at Nema Headquarters in South C, Nairobi.

Karimi said the going rates for her house used to be Sh 400,000. Now, it was zero after Nema earmarked the apartment for demolition.

The Sh 2.5 billion property is next to Mbagathi Road in Nyayo Highrise ward.

The 288 apartments were built in 2011 and bought on mortgage from financial institutions. It is owned by Edermann Property.

Tenants pay between Sh38,000 and Sh45,000 per month.

Problems for the homeowners began in October 2018 when WRA presented Ederman with a 14-day demolition notice. 

Nema and WRA had argued that the apartments (three blocks of 12 floors) were standing on the riparian reserve of both the Nairobi Dam and Ngong River.

 

However, a 30-day grace period was granted after authorities met the developers.

On October 25, 2018, Seefar homeowners conducted an independent survey through Kolmans Geomantic Consultants, with the technicians concluding that the apartment was 42 metres away from Nairobi Dam and 100 metres from the Ngong River.

This meant that they were not on riparian reserve as claimed by the eviction notice.

And in November 2018 the homeowners received help from the National Assembly.

The MPs proposed that the Nairobi dam be destroyed in order to save the building.

They argued that the dam was no longer useful so it would make more economic sense to sacrifice it and save the apartments. 

In March this year, the MPs came to the rescue again when they ordered that WRA withdraw its demolition notice.

On Thursday last week, MPs reiterated their stance that the Nairobi Dam needs to be decommissioned to save the apartments. It is this recommendation that the homeowners want effected. 

Yesterday, Karimi and other landowners led by chairman Paul Peter Otieno had gone to NEMA offices to demand that the demolition notice be lifted.

They first went to the office of Nema director of compliance and enforcement David Ongare. He left them in his office and walked out.

The group then moved to Nema Director General Geoffrey Wahungu’s office. Wahungu was however not around.

“We came to see Ongare but he is referring us to the DG. The DG advised him to write a letter to us. This means orders are being given and defied,” Otieno said.

The National Assembly had intervened following a petition by Langata MP Nixon Korir.

“It was resolved that the Ministry of Environment immediately writes to the County Government of Nairobi issuing a notice of decommissioning of the Nairobi Dam as it was not serving the original intended purpose,” reads the report by National Assembly Environment Committee.

The report was tabled in the chamber by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale last Thursday.

Otieno said a report from a multi-sectoral agency was shelved despite inspection taking place.

“The question is who then shall give us the suspension letter? That is now our frustration,” Otieno said.

Otieno said the parliamentary committee had ordered agencies to produce a technical report which was meant to be ready in 30 days.

“This was supposed to be produced on December 22, last year,” he said.

The panel, chaired by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, had been studying the matter since October last year when Nema and WRA issued demolition notice.

The committee also directed the Ministry of Environment to convene an inter-agency task force to assess the immediate safety issues of the dam and its remedy within a week and report back to it.

WRA CEO Mohammed Shurie said, on behalf of the Ministry of Water, that there was an “imminent threat to lives, environment and property due to the likelihood of Nairobi Dam breaking.”

Shurie said that the dam’s embankments had been weakened by excavation and construction works of the apartments.

A similar position was taken by the Ministry of Environment which argued that Edermann Property Limited, the contractor of the buildings, failed to adhere to the conditions set out to protect the dam by maintaining a 30-metre reserve from the water bodies.

“It was observed that Edermann Property had encroached into the riparian reserve of the Nairobi Dam as well as Ngong River,” CAS Elmi said when he appeared before the panel.

But in the report, the committee faulted Nema and WRA, saying that their notices were “wanting” since the same entities gave approvals for the construction of the apartments.

“There was manifest laxity and a lack of diligence among some officers at Nema and WRA since it had taken too long to establish the alleged encroachment on the riparian zone,” Mbiuki said in the report.

Moreover, the MPs observed that the dam is not operational as it has been choked by vegetation including hyacinth and thus should be done away with.

“It was serving as a sewage repository from the neighbouring residents,” Mbiuki says in the report.

The MPs noted that occupants of the apartments were endangered in case of the collapse of the dam as the building is downstream.

The homeowners, through chairman Paul Peter Otieno, had argued that the construction was approved by the same agencies that issued demolition notice.

“Seefar community was horrified by the notices that were issued by the staff of Nema and WRA to the developer of this building and writings put on the walls on Friday, October 12, 2018,” Otieno said in the petition.

For now, Karimi and other homeowners will stay hopeful that they have the support of the legislators.

But the publicity generated by the notice will mean not much will be made as tenants shy away from the building. 

(Edited by O. Owino)