Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko has directed the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to urgently begin cracking the whip on all corporates, individuals, and entities polluting water sources and wetland areas in the country.
He lamented that the Sabaki River, which begins at Ontiri Swamp and changes names to Ngong, Nairobi, Athi, Galana, and Sabaki as it flows towards the Indian Ocean, had suffered serious pollution and immediate remedial measures should be taken to stop the menace.
“Take action against all corporates, individuals, and entities that discharge untreated and toxic waste into our rivers, especially the Athi-Galana-Sabaki river,” he directed the environmental watchdog.
The cabinet secretary at the same time directed NEMA to immediately review all licenses issues to salt manufacturing companies in Kilifi County.
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He said all the companies should conduct environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) before they are issued with licenses so as to ensure that they comply with all environmental regulations.
Speaking at the Sabaki Estuary in Magarini Constituency during celebrations to mark this year’s World Wetlands Day, Mr. Tobiko lamented that many of the salt manufacturing companies had been involved in environmental degradation, hence the need to review the conditions of their licenses.
He said he had received reports that the salt manufacturing companies had destroyed the environment to an extent that they have encroached fresh drinking water and made it saline as well as cutting trees indiscriminately.
“Therefore, NEMA should now review all the licenses issued to the salt making firms. We want to know whether there was public participation and whether an ESIA study was conducted. You cannot just grant licenses without an ESIA.
The cabinet secretary at the same time directed the Kilifi County Environment Committee to immediately convene a meeting and discuss ways of regulating sand harvesting activities in the Magarini sub-county, which he said were also degrading the environment.
Mr. Tobiko, who earlier led residents and environment stakeholders to plant more than 17,000 mangrove seedlings at the estuary, told NEMA to adopt all sites that had been planted and ensure that trees are taken care of.
“I direct that NEMA adopts all the sites we have planted mangroves and hire women and youths to take care of all the trees,” he told NEMA board chairman John Konchella and members of the board of directors who were present at the function.
He told Kilifi County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka, who was also present, to use youths under the Kazi Mitaani programme to cut down all prosopis juliflora (Mathenge trees) that have invaded the estuary.
NEMA Director-General Mamo B. Mamo said his organization would continue creating awareness on the importance of conserving the Athi-Galana-Sabaki river with a view to reversing the degradation it has suffered over the years.
“NEMA will continue carrying out Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) activities across the country with focus on the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River basin. NEMA will therefore enhance awareness creation on the importance and need to conserve wetlands so as to reverse the degradation activities that deplete wetlands ecosystems,” he said.
County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka called for decisive measures to stop further degradation of sand and salt harvesting sites as they were posing a great danger to the environment in the county, especially Magarini Sub County.
Although we need to expand areas of employment, there is also a need to balance between economic activities and proper environmental conservation,” he said.