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Alarm over city housing project on wetland

A private developer who was recently stopped from putting up 10 apartments on wetland in Nairobi has resumed construction.

The title deed for the land was revoked in a gazette notice of April 1, 2010, and the property, which is located at Kibarage Valley along Lower Kabete Road, declared public land.

In March, suspended Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu warned the developer of Alina Villas against continuing with the construction.

Mrs Ngilu had been alerted by environmentalists and neighbours that the tycoon said to have interests in the banking industry had ignored an earlier directive to stop developing the property.

The property was declared public following protests by environmentalists.

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai started the protests in 2009 when she led a group of activists to the site and asked the government to revoke the title deed of the property.

Following the protests that got the backing of then Lands Minister James Orengo, the developer abandoned the construction work.

He had started putting up the buildings in 2007 when the local community raised alarm.

Mr Orengo took up the matter, which led to the revocation of the title deed for the land.

Contacted on Wednesday on whether the developer has a title deed for the plot, National Lands Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri did not respond to the text message or answer calls.

But National Environment Management Authority confirmed that it had allowed the developer to put up the buildings before ordering him to stop.

“We have issued them (the developers) with a stop order, halting any activities at the site but (the developer) has now taken Nema to National Environment Tribunal contesting the authority’s decision,” Nema acting chief corporate communication manager Anthony Ngare said.

The tribunal has the powers of a court, which means Nema cannot interfere with the ongoing construction until the case is heard and determined.

The apartments are being erected on the riparian land of Mathare River, which cuts across the valley and environmentalists have been complaining that the development would interfere with the smooth flow of the stream.

The developer has however displayed a plaque showing the construction has been approved by the relevant authorities.