NEMA takes bold action against polluters to salvage Nairobi River Basin

  • 2 Feb 2024
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Grace Marione

In a significant move towards environmental conservation, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has issued restoration orders to 29 companies, compelling them to clean up their environmental mess within the heavily polluted Nairobi River basin. This directive comes after the companies failed to comply with extended producer responsibility, as outlined in the Sustainable Waste Management Act of 2022.


The Act, enacted on July 6, 2022, introduces provisions known as extended producer responsibility, holding producers accountable for environmental pollution. This marks a departure from the previous approach, where the public bore sole responsibility for littering.


NEMA’s restoration orders were issued following inspections carried out by NEMA officers on January 18, revealing synthetic wastes along the Ngong River and Nairobi River, with some waste bearing the identity of the companies involved. According to NEMA Director General Mamo Mamo, these wastes had accumulated in the rivers, posing threats of flooding and water pollution, which could adversely impact the sensitive Nairobi River ecosystem.


Under Article 42 of the 2010 Constitution, the environment is recognised as a right and fundamental freedom, emphasising every person’s right to a clean and healthy environment. Section 13(1) of the Sustainable Waste Management Act requires producers to reduce the environmental impact of their products and manage the resulting waste properly.


Failure to comply with the Act can lead to penalties, as stated in Section 30(1), with fines ranging from Sh2 million to Sh4 million or imprisonment for up to four years, or both.


Brookside, one of the companies receiving a restoration order, has been given 30 days to clean up the waste and restore the environment to its natural state. Additionally, the company must submit an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) plan for waste management in the Nairobi River catchment region.


Similar restoration orders have been issued to other companies, including British American Tobacco, Ndhiwa Sukari Industries, Pearl Dairy Farm Limited, Kenya Tea Packers, Mini Bakeries (NRB), and Mjengo Limited. All these companies are required to clear their environmental mess within a specified period and demonstrate measures to prevent future pollution.


The Nairobi River Commission has also raised concerns about continuous waste dumping into the Nairobi River. The Commission has developed an action plan focused on catchment protection, riparian land reclamation, waste management, drainage, and hydrology.


The cleanup operation, covering Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos, and Makueni counties, has already removed 4,450 tonnes of waste from sections of the river, with a 6.5 km stretch cleared. However, the Commission requires approximately Sh22 billion to address immediate challenges posed by solid, sewerage, and industrial waste.


As NEMA takes decisive action and issues restoration orders, it sends a strong message about the importance of corporate responsibility in preserving and restoring the environment for future generations. The ongoing efforts to clean up the Nairobi River basin are a crucial step towards achieving a clean and healthy environment for all.