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January 24, 2021
Policy and Legislation

What Kenyan law says about the riparian land

There are about nine laws in Kenya that protects riparian lands. They include, the Water Act 2002, Agriculture Act, Water Resource Management Act 2007 and the Environment Management and Coordination Regulations of 2006.

The others are the Environment Management and Coordination Act CAP 387, the Environmental Management and Coordination (water quality) regulations 2006, Surveys Act CAP 299, the Physical Planning Act CAP 286 and Water Resource Management Act, 2007.

However, there is some contradiction on what the law states about riparian distance from a water reservoir. For example, the Environmental Management and Coordination (water quality) regulations 2006, says the riparian distance is minimum of six metres and a maximum of 30 metres from the highest water mark.

The Agriculture Act CAP 318 stipulates a minimum of two metres and a maximum of 30 metres although it’s not clear from what point.

There is a new draft Environmental Management and Co-ordination (Conservation and Management of Wetlands) Amendment Regulations, 2018 that prohibits any construction or any other human activities near the rivers, lakes and ocean shores.

While addressing the parliament, the Water Resources Authority CEO Mohamed Shurie did not explain the regulation which guided the planned reduction of Lake Naivasha riparian land. Mr. Shurie defended the strategy, arguing it was directed by the law.

The Environment ministry directed WRA to suspend the exercise with immediate effect following public outcry.

Shurie said the exercise was needed because of massive encroachment by some private developers, farmers and other users around the lake.

“Pollution into the lake has also been of great concern to the authority,” he said in a letter that was adressed to the ministry. According to Shurie, the exercise must be revisited soon.

“In the intervening period, the Lake Naivasha Protection Order, 2011, remains in operation, as pertains the Lake Naivasha Catchment,” he said.

The suspension by the ministry of environment is a short relief to the fishermen who will be majorly affected when government moves the boundaries. For instance, in Kamere beach, one of the lake’s beaches, there are aroud 150 fishermen who reside on the riparian land as they continue with their fishing activities.

In an interview with the Waterkenya, the fishermen said the lake was the main source of their income where they earn an approximate of Sh 30,000 per month each. Sometimes, there emergence of human-wildlife conflict at the beach because hippos rely on the riparian land for the pasture.

Another corridor which they use to access the lake is often blocked by a local investor who claims where the corridor passes belongs to him. He allegedly uses police officers to harass and arrest the traders and fishermen, while he has taken others to the court.

“All they want is to evict the fishermen and traders whose source of income is from this lake, and the government has just kept quiet on this issue,” Waweru one of the fishermen said.

Some private developers have already constructed permanent houses near the lake in preparation for any reduction of boundaries.

“If the riparian is reduced, this means human-wildlife conflict that we experience is going to increase, and also we believe that the land which will be created towards the lake is going to be fenced, denying us the way to the lake for our fishing activities,” Waweru added.

Another resident, Ruth Mumbi, lamented how her husband was killed by a hippopotamus in December, 2016, and since then, she has never been compensated by the Kenya Wildlife Society.

“Sometimes, I have no money to buy the fish from the fishermen that I can sell, and this makes us go for days with no food. I appeal to the government to help me and many other people here at the lake who we have similar cases,” Ruth says. Her husband was a fisherman. Many traders in Kamere Beach will be left jobless if the proposal to reduce the boundaries will be enacted.

David Kilo, who is a fisherman and a chairman of the boats association, said the idea of reviewing the riparian land and the boundary is not for the benefit of the community and urged the WRA to hold a public participation where they will get an opportunity to explain their grievances. According to Kilo, the reduction will adversely affect the breeding site of fish and birds, animal habitat for hippos and water-bucks that rely on the riparian as grazing zones.

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