By Daily Nation
South End Mall on Langata Road has become the latest casualty of the ongoing campaign by the national environment watchdog to reclaim grabbed wetlands in the capital Nairobi.
A bulldozer, on instructions of National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officials and the guard of police, descended on the mall that stands atop Mutuini-Ngong River on Langata Road on Wednesday morning.
The imposing building, owned by former Bobasi MP Stephen Manoti, has been blamed for obstructing the river leading to perennial flooding and destruction of property in Nairobi West, South C and Lang’ata.
But in an interview with the Nation in May 2015, Mr Manoti claimed that he had all the necessary approvals from City Hall and National Environmental and Management Authority (NEMA), despite the two ordering for the demolition of the building.
And on Wednesday, his brother Dan Steve Ragila reiterated the claim. “We had all approvals and licenses, all given by the government agencies. We are not on the river at all,” he told reporters at the site of the demolition.
“We even have a court order. We had no prior knowledge of this demolition.”
Mr Manoti obtained a court order to stop the demolition. City Hall challenged the order in court in early 2017.
The matter has seen a sustained back and forth between authorities and the owners since construction commenced, with authorities maintaining that the building needs to be demolished because of the risks it poses to thousands of Nairobi residents.
The five-storey building, which Mr Ragila said cost Sh2 billion, is at the Mbagathi Way-Langata Road junction and opposite T-Mall.
The mall was constructed despite opposition by environmentalists. The operation to reclaim riparian land in Nairobi is being led by the Nairobi Regeneration team appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The technical committee, co-chaired by Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, was formed to audit unsafe buildings and those built on wetlands.
It brings together officers from the National Construction Authority, Nema, Cabinet secretaries of Interior, Land and Housing, Environment and Water, the NYS and the office of the attorney-general.
In June, the parliamentary committee on environment and natural resources was alarmed by the extent of encroachment when it toured waterways.
It identified Limuru Road, Lang’ata Road, Arboretum Road, Spring Valley, Globe Cinema roundabout, Riverside Drive, Westlands, Parklands, Fuata Nyayo estate in South B, Village Market, Gem Suites in Riverside and Alina Villas in Spring Valley as among the areas where buildings are sitting on river banks.