A landmark victory for coastal communities holding back a wave of unscrupulous property developers.
In 2007 a property development company was granted approval by the government agency, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to build 26 holiday apartments and villas on a 1.5 acre headland in the protected Watamu Marine Reserve. The development posed a serious threat to the marine environment and was opposed by the local community, environmentalists and neighbouring hotels.
Sustainable and quality commercial development at the coast is very much welcomed by local communities and the tourism sector as a necessary boost to local economies. However an increasing number of developers and foreign investors are taking advantage of the lack of planning and zoning regulations in Kenya resulting in uncontrolled and unregulated commercial developments threatening the environment and destroying the natural beauty of Kenya’s world famous coastline.
WMA members decided to take legal action and appealed the decision of NEMA in an effort to preserve the Watamu coast. The appeal was made to the National Environment Tribunal (NET). The Environmental Management Consolidation Act 1999 helps protect the interests of “the man in the street” and communities to create a level playing field in the face of potentially more powerful and wealthy property developers.
In March 2009 after an 18 month long battle the case was won by WMA on all grounds of appeal. This victory has given Watamu and other coastal communities hope and confidence in the knowledge that unwanted commercial developments can be challenged and the wishes of the community upheld. ( see below for further information on the judgement.)
A second case in Watamu Marine Park has also been adjudicated on by the NET this year who also found fault in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures and NEMA approvals. The rulings in both cases direct that NEMA "develop and implement" regulations and controls on development projects in the Watamu area.
WMA NET Appeal against Blazer Watamu Ltd
WMA claims were numerous including:
The Tribunal found in favour of WMA.
The developer did not appeal against the NET judgement. The partly constructed villas now remain an ugly eye sore on what was once a beautiful horizon.
WMA Chairman, Steve Trott
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