A court has ordered the Taita Taveta County government to pay a private developer more than Sh68 million over effluent that rendered its business premises inhabitable.
Mombasa Environment and Land Court Judge Sila Munyao ruled that Amaka Development Ltd suffered loss and damage because of the county’s acts of omission and or commission.
"I am of the view that he is entitled to compensation by way of damages. I will award the plaintiff Sh68.3million. Interest will start to accrue from the date of filing the suit till payment,” the judge said.
The devolved unit was given a year to take corrective action and ensure that the nuisance on the firm’s land in Voi town is removed.
“If it does not, then it will be liable to pay the plaintiff the same sum of Sh610,000 per month from the date of this judgment till it has abided by its obligations,” the judge added.
The court further noted that if the county proceeds to undertake repairs within a year, the money that accrues after the judgment will not be claimed.
The firm sued in 2015 after its premises, comprising residential houses, rental stalls, godowns and a restaurant, became inhabitable when stormwater drainage was rerouted to its property.
The company said the trouble started in 1999 when the defunct Voi municipal council embarked on rehabilitating roads in the Voi town centre, including one abutting the firm’s property.
The rehabilitation was prompted by the El-Nino rains that pounded the county in 1999.
The firm said that the route of the stormwater drainage system was diverted from the road reserve onto its land.
“When causing the said diversion, the municipal council gave assurance that an environmental impact assessment had been carried out and that there would be no environmental harm to adjoining parcels of land,” the firm said through its director Dominic Lenjo.
He also argued that the municipal council assured property owners that the diversion was not permanent and would be relocated to run along the road reserve once the rehabilitation was completed.
However, upon completion of the works, Mr Lenjo said the municipal council abandoned the drainage.
“As a result of the abandonment, the drainage blocked and putrefied, and started emitting an unbearable stench, which spilled its effluent into the suit property forcing all tenants to leave,” he said.
Court records show that the company’s demands to the municipal council that the drainage be relocated were ignored. And when the devolved unit took over in 2013, a similar complaint was lodged but it too was ignored.
In 2014, the firm complained to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), which in turn recommended remedial measures to reroute the drainage so as to pass within an approved sanitary lane.
“Instead, the devolved unit closed the restaurant - Augustine George Resort- and left things as they are,” Mr Lenjo said.
With effluent from the entire Voi town now being deposited near the business premises, he said, all the tenants vacated the buildings.
Mr Lenjo lamented that the firm had suffered huge financial losses, adding that no tenant has occupied the premises since January 2010 on health grounds.
The devolved unit, however, denied the firm’s claims, saying the defunct municipal council was not in charge of stormwater drainage in Voi municipality.
The county also said that the sewerage holes, stormwater drainage, pits and the entire drainage system in and around Voi township were under the domain, maintenance and control of Tavevo Water and Sewerage Company Ltd.
The devolved unit also denied that it was notified of any of the breaches cited by the company, and urged the court not to award compensation, arguing that the case was time-barred.
The court agreed with the company that it suffered losses when no corrective measures were taken to reroute the stormwater drainage and awarded the damages.