Mystery over dam boundary in Seefar Apartments fiasco
When Water Resources Authority (WRA) Regional Manager John Kinyanjui appeared before a Nairobi County Assembly committee last month, his report on Seefar Apartments, which have been earmarked for demolition, was damning.
Mr Kinyanjui revealed that the developer of the 12-storey property had twice ignored notices by relevant authorities to stop the construction as it was on the riparian land of both Nairobi Dam and Ngong River.
He said that the state agency issued Edermann Property, the developer, with stop orders in 2011 when the construction of the apartments started and again in 2012, but both orders were ignored.
“The first order was issued at the initial stages of construction in an attempt to stop them from excavation until the riparian area was marked. But they ignored it,” said Mr Kinyanjui, appearing before the Planning Committee chaired by Waithaka MCA Antony Kiragu.
The issue of the status of the property has witnessed a back-and-forth between the homeowners, the developer and two state agencies — the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and WRA — over the next course of action.
In early October, WRA issued the owners of the 288-unit property with a 14-day demolition notice — six years after realising that the developer was excavating soil and filling it in the dam’s reservoir thereby risking the life of the dam. The apartment stands on the embankment of Nairobi Dam, he said.
But, baffling enough, the notice was extended to 30 days following a meeting between the developers and homeowners.
This is despite the fact that the agency had already warned that lives of people residing in the apartments could be in danger because the dam wall had been weakened by construction work and was at risk of collapsing.
“According to engineers, the slope of earth dams should be between one and three metres, but in this case, it was reduced to between one and one-and-a-half. So, literally, Seefar apartments ate into the Nairobi Dam embankment,” he said.
MOTHER OF CONTRADICTIONS
However, the mother of all contradictions was to come on October 31 when WRA extended the deadline notice for the demolition of the property to next year.
This was to enable it carry out thorough checks on the compliance documents issued to the property’s developer.
In the October letter by the Authority’s acting deputy technical coordination manager, Mr John Kinyanjui, the extension order was slated to take effect from November 13 and stay in force for 90 days.
It was addressed to the apartment’s developer, Erdermann Property Limited and copied to Warma chief executive officer Mohammed Shurie and National Environment Management Authority (Nema) director-general Professor Geoffrey Wahungu.
But there are contradictions and the public may not have been told the whole truth. Before the latest letter, a planned joint evaluation exercise by WRA, Nema and Seefar Homeowners failed to take off.
This was ostensibly because Survey of Kenya (SoK) technicians, who were to carry out the exercise, failed to show up for the evaluation, which was to ascertain whether the building sits on a riparian reserve.
Nevertheless, SoK head John Maina said they were not aware of the whole process as they did not get any communication.
On October 25, Seefar homeowners carried out 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 contradicted statements given by Nema and WRA, who maintain that the building is on riparian land. Before this, a parliamentary Committee on Environment led by chair Kareke Mbiuki visited the area and found out that there were cracks on the walls of the Nairobi dam.
However, the committee agreed to make a final decision on the fate of the houses after investigations have been completed.
“We have seen clearly the wall of the dam has been interfered with and it is a clear indication there is imminent danger,” Mr Mbiuki said at the time.
The building has 264-two bed-room flats and 24-three bedroom apartments located within the Nyayo Highrise Estate on Mbagathi Way on the peripheries of Nairobi Dam covering an area of 31,000 square metres.