Ask your Question: Nema's Geoffrey Wahungu

Nema director general Geoffrey Wahungu at Central Park in Nanyuki in June 2016. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to select public figures.

  • This week, Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, the director general of the National Environment Management Authority, responds to your questions.

In this interactive series, we invite readers to send in questions to select public figures. This week, Prof Geoffrey Wahungu, the director general of the National Environment Management Authority, responds to your questions.


Nairobi, apart from being physically filthy, is plagued by ear-splitting noise especially from mobile phone shops at the city centre. I have also raised a complaint through official channels, about the matatus at the Kinoo stage hooting from as early as 5am. Is dealing with noise pollution part of Nema’s mandate?

Stella Riunga, Kiambu

Nema spearheaded the formulation of The Environmental Management and Coordination (Noise and Excessive Vibrations) Regulations, 2009 which defined the permissible levels of noise in relation to the zoning framework in Kenya. These regulations were implemented by Nema until the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. The Constitution devolved certain environmental functions to the county governments. One of those devolved functions is the implementation of the noise regulations. Nema officially informed the county governments about those devolved functions.

What strategy does Nema have to combat plastics menace and handling of other wastes?

Kaz Theuri

Nema has developed the national solid waste management strategy that gives out the guidelines on how different types of waste can be handled. A copy of the Strategy is available on the Nema website. On February 28, 2017, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment Judi Wakhungu, through Gazette Notice No 2536 banned the use, manufacture or importation of plastic carrier bags with effect from August 8, 2017. Nema is the implementer of this ban. Compliance and enforcement strategy is in place.

What is the status of concept notes submitted to Nema November 2016? Why has it taken so long for applicants to receive notification about their concept notes?

E. M.N., Kikuyu

Nema is one of the national institutions accredited to access climate related funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This means it is accredited to directly access funds for and on behalf of their countries. Nema intends to use this opportunity to get climate money into the country through submitting projects to the GCF management. It is for this reason that it made a call for GCF related projects proposal. This call got almost 200 responses. The reason why it has taken some time to determine the best proposals is technical complexity of the kind of proposals that GCF is willing to fund. Nema has had to spend time to interact technically with the GCF secretariat so as to understand fully the scope, content and thresholds required to meet the criteria for GCF. For those of you who participated in this call, Nema had made available the template to use, which many of the applicants have stated is technically complex. Also Nema has had to develop a GCF Concept Review Criteria so as to capture parameters from Kenya Climate Change Action Plan and GCF parameters. This process took more time than we had anticipated. During the period, Nema undertook to update the applicants on the process.

Why didn’t Nema publish the current Green Climate Fund Private Sector Facility’s “Request for proposals for mobilising fund in the print media?” Does Nema only favour public sector agencies as it seemed to some participants (including myself) of the December 6-9, 2016 GCF project development course held at the University of Nairobi?

E.M.N., Kikuyu Nairobi

The stated Request for proposals (RFP) for mobilizing funds is done by GCF itself, within its private sector facility. Nema supports private sector-based interventions and encourages Kenyans to apply. However it is good to know that in the institutional arrangements of GCF, at country there are two main important institutions namely a National Designated Authority (NDA) and an Accredited Entity. Nema is an Accredited Entity. The NDA is the institution that endorses the proposals that will be funded from the GCF, and for anyone to consider responding to this RFP, the NDA must endorse. In relation to NEMA favouring public entities, the true position is that Nema is willing to work with all types of institutions. What Nema did is that for faster turnaround of proposals, a multi government agency process was employed to design government-driven proposals just before the call for proposals. These proposals have already been submitted to the GCF.

Sir, is there a licence that one needs to drill a well on a river and if any what are the requirements

Lazarus Kimeu, Nairobi 

The river water transfer/abstraction works is categorised as a medium risk project that requires to undergo Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This is clearly outlined in the revised second schedule of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, Cap 387 Legal Notice No 150. The EIA license is processed in consultation with relevant lead agencies such as Water Resource Management Authority to provide the requisite technical and legislative support for such in-stream works. Could you provide an example of such a project for a specific response?

Why has it taken too long to rid the country of asbestos roofing despite a government ban issued 10 years ago due to environmental and health concerns? Asbestos is known to cause cancer yet ironically, some public health facilities still have it on their roofs. What is Nema doing about this?

James Muchai, Kwale

Nema has been at the forefront in the control and use of asbestos roofing in Kenya. We have over the years educated the public through various forums on the dangers of asbestos and advised for their disposal. Subsequently, we have developed the guidelines on safe management and disposal of Asbestos available on the NEMA website to help with the dissemination of information on the same. Gradual milestones are being witnessed across the country. Nema has ensured that asbestos containing material is not being used as roofing material for new developments and in that regard the Environmental Impact Assessment process acts as the preventive measure.

Don’t you think it is high time Nema came up with mass education messages for Kenyans with regard to caring for our environment?

Anthony Ondicho, Nairobi

Anthony, this is part of the National Solid Waste Management Strategy currently under implementation. It is a deliberate and visionary commitment that the country intends to take in the management of solid waste.

Sir, I have seen Kenyans, including uniformed policemen littering the environment. Has Nema made any efforts to incorporate non-littering in the curriculum to help fight the menace?

Kimutai Moses, Nairobi 

Culture change is a critical strategy in the National Solid Waste Management Strategy. Through the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), various universities have come up with ESD policies which have incorporated waste management as a core component in the institutions’ activities. Furthermore Nema has partnered with Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development to incorporate environmental issues including waste management in the curriculum from lowest level to college level. This is currently at piloting stage.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Kimutai Moses, Nairobi

I am now in my second term as the Director General having assumed office in April 2012. Under my stewardship, my team has successfully overseen the mainstreaming of environmental consideration in policy, planning, programmes and projects. Nema is recognised and the impact of our mandate felt nationwide and regionally. Consequently between 2012 and today, under the program of green Kenya’s economy, we have built regional green growth centres in Taita Taveta, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Embu, Kilifi, Lamu, Kajiado and Elgeyo Marakwet with the support of the Danish government. With regard to climate change we have secured for Kenya US$10 million for adaptation programmes in 14 counties. Regionally, we have set standards in environmental governance. Notwithstanding the challenges we face, especially funding, I wish to leave behind a clean and a healthy environment for Kenyans.

Across major towns there is encroachment of fuel pump stations, filling stations and cooking gas outlets located within residential areas, having an approval from your office. Are there corrupt cartels at Nema who fraudulently issue approval certifications to such danger-exposing businesses?

Martin Muia, Mombasa

As stated in a related question above, Nema upon receipt of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the proposed petroleum facilities, retail and consumer outlets shares the EIA reports with the relevant stakeholders. The Authority’s decisions are guided by planning requirements, risk functionality and acceptable safe distance and code of practice of such facilities. It will be in order to come out clearly on any specific matter that touches on unprocedural or fraudulent issuance of EIA licences to any facility.

Is Nema having guidelines for building incinerators especially meant for the villages because I believe what we have in many areas is a health hazard?

Githuku Mungai

Nema has got guidelines for incineration facilities. The guidelines prescribe a number of things including basic plant design, feeding and charging, combustion chambers, chimney/stack, instrumentation, location/siting, emission limits, operation, housekeeping and health and safety. Before an incinerator is put up EIA report must be submitted to Nema for review and licensing subject to compliance of set conditions before it comes into operation. The owners of the incinerators are required to apply for a waste disposal license which is renewed annually. Environmental inspection on the facilities is undertaken over the lifetime of the incinerator’s operation phase to ensure that the owners comply with the regulations.

Sand harvesting in eastern Kangundo is an environmental disaster. In the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s rivers in this area (Miu, Kyaana, Mataani) used to have running water even in dry months. Today all the sand has been scooped and what is left are dry river beds. Who is going to save the situation?

 Bernard N. Mutua, Kangundo

Nema notes that sand harvesting is a destructive activity that degrades the environment and impacts negatively on the livelihoods of the people if it is not done in a sustainable manner. Nema developed Guidelines on Sand Harvesting and Monitoring way back in 2007 that tackles on-farm sand harvesting, lakeshore sand harvesting and riverbed sand harvesting possible solutions to the sand harvesting menace the country is facing.

What happened to the implementation of the noise-pollution policies enacted during the reign of the late John Michuki? How are we supposed to report such cases?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

Yes, noise pollution is unbecoming in the country and a major risk to public health but as earlier stated, noise control is a devolved function to the county governments. Reporting incidences of noise should be directed to the respective county governments. Nema’s role can only be advisory.

What initiatives is Kenya undertaking to show commitment to the Paris Agreement (COP 21) of 2015?

Wachira Githinji, Nairobi

It is important to note that Kenya has been a member state of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1995 when it ratified the convention. Kenya also ratified the Paris Agreement on Enhanced Action on Climate Change in December 2016 coming into effect in January 2017. As a commitment to the Paris Agreement, Kenya has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the Paris Agreement. In its INDC, Kenya’s contribution to the Paris Agreement includes both adaptation and mitigation actions to be implemented across all sectors with both domestic and internationally sourced resources. Kenya also actively participates in the UNFCCC climate change negotiations in order to shape the global climate change agenda and discourse and negotiate in favour of the nation. Domestically, Kenya has gone further to establish various legislative, institutional and sector-wide measures and actions to implement its INDC and other climate change actions to ensure that the country develops along a low-carbon climate resilient pathway

In view of the climate change phenomena, and which has not spared our country Kenya, what would be your assessment on the issue in terms of its environmental impact to the country and its people?

Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

Climate Change is an unprecedented global phenomenon with varying impacts across the world. Kenya is a climate-vulnerable country which is already experiencing adverse impacts sector-wide. Key climate change impacts in Kenya, include, but are not limited to severe droughts and floods whose frequency and duration of occurrence has increased over time, melting of the glaciers on Mount Kenya, coral bleaching and sea level rise in the Indian Ocean, coastal erosion along the Kenyan coast, spread of vector-borne diseases beyond their endemic boundaries increasing the prevalence of both human, animal and plant diseases, enhancement of environmental degradation, among others. The impact of climate change in Kenya on our socio-economic development is estimated at two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (Details can be found in the Kenya Climate Change Action Plan 2013-2017 on and on

To address Climate Change, the government has established legislative, institutional and sector-wide actions and measures consisting of Kenya Climate Change Act 2016, Kenya Climate Change Policy Framework, Kenya Climate Change Action Plan 2013-2017, Kenya National Adaption Plan 2015-2030, Kenya National Climate Change Strategy 2010, and Kenya’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. Further, the Climate Change Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources serves a coordinating role of addressing climate change in Kenya while all government ministries, departments and agencies have climate change units to address climate change in line with their mandate. In this regard, NEMA serves as the Designated National Authority for the Clean Development Mechanism, the National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund and the Accredited Entity for the Green Climate Fund. NEMA also educates the public through various forums on climate change issues and is currently working with Counties to mainstream climate change in County Environmental Action Plans. At the national level, the Ministry of Planning and Devolution is in the process of developing the Third Medium Term Plan 2018-2022. This is the first Medium Term Plan which has mainstreamed climate change in all planning sectors and will have a stand-alone climate change chapter.

Sir, your agency has been accused of delaying in approving building plans in Nakuru County. This has been very frustrating especially to developers and investors who want a pie of the fast growing construction sector in Nakuru and Naivasha towns. What guarantee can you give to speedily address this matter in view of the fact that such delays have the negative effects, including hiking building costs to the extent of discouraging investors to come to Nakuru County?

Dan Murugu, Nakuru 

The Authority does not approve building plans. That is the mandate of the County Government (physical planning office). The mandate of the Authority is to process EIA licences or rejection letters for the proposed projects. The Authority has, through the Gazette Notice No.149 dated August 19, 2016 reduced the timelines for the EIA processing from 45 to 30 days. Furthermore there is no payment of EIA licence fee. This is in the spirit of promoting Ease of Doing Business in the Country.

The EIA is a consultative process and sometimes a project can be delayed by aggrieved parties or other environmental issues which have not been addressed fully by the proponent. The Authority in making its decision is usually guided by the above (No.10) stated Record of Decision principles. The Authority is in the process of reviewing and customizing the Sand Harvesting and Monitoring Guidelines into a Regulation that can be implemented and enforceable. In the interim and to avoid a vacuum, the Authority through the County Directors of Environment has initiated and started implementing the governance structure under the Sand Harvesting and Monitoring Guidelines in liaison with County Governments and relevant Lead Agencies. The governance structure emphasized here is the establishment of the Technical Sand Harvesting Committee to guide in the implementation of the guidelines with emphasis on designating sand harvesting sites, monitor rehabilitation of the designated sites and their adjacent environment and enforcement interventions to ensure environmental sustainability.

Many policy makers in different agencies in our country cannot afford to undermine the constitutional obligation of public participation in all stages of their policies. As we await the implementation of the ban on paper bags/plastics, has your authority complied with this provision in order to avoid delays in this long-awaited policy?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

There have been consultations over the years since 2008 with various stakeholders. The plastic carrier bag ban gazetted by the Cabinet Secretary is in accordance with her powers conferred in the Kenya Constitution in section 3 and section 86 of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act CAP 387 on guidelines and standards for waste management. Accordingly, NEMA is still working in consultation with all stakeholders including both private sector and government to ensure that the ban is implemented to bequeath Kenyans a clean and healthy environment.

It pains Kenyans of goodwill to see villagers in some parts of this country block roads to protest the dumping of asbestos materials in their water-catchment areas. Knowing the dangerous nature of this material, why can’t Nema take charge of their safe disposal and bill the institutions concerned? Don’t you think it is professional negligence on your part?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

It is true that asbestos is a hazardous material with extremely fine fibres which if handled without caution may course serious chronic health problems but when left intact/undisturbed will not pose any health risk. The asbestos material should only be disposed in NEMA-licensed sites as spelt out in the National Guidelines on Safe Management and Disposal of Asbestos which can be accessed in our website or at headquarters or in all our County offices. The Authority has licensed several asbestos disposal sites in the country in consultation with the relevant lead agencies and interested stakeholders.

Inadequate public participation and non-compliance with specific disposal standards and conditions of licencing has in this particular case caused public demonstrations. The Authority has since taken appropriate enforcement interventions for such contraventions.

I have been working on waste management disposal in Kabati, Naivasha from 2004 to date yet I continue to experience some challenges with the Nakuru County and Naivasha sub-county public health and environment offices. In what way can the Nema director general intervene?

James Nganga, Naivasha)

Mr Ng’ang’a, I would advise you to prepare your proposal and make an appointment to see me. As mentioned earlier Participation of State and Non-State actors (e.g. MDAs, Private sector, religious groups, civil society etc) is a sure way of cascading waste management to lowest level of administrative unit and thereby ensuring sustainability.

Sir, we’ve constantly seen in the news the mischievous attempts of improper disposal of the asbestos waste by some cartels, which when inhaled causes lung cancer. What measures have you put in place to curb this behaviour and also phase out asbestos from our surroundings?

Byron T. Momanyi, Nairobi

See response to a related question. Nema has got an incidence and inspection section that deals with the enforcement of laws and regulations of the waste management and citizens are encouraged to report any violation/mishandling of waste to [email protected] or call the incidence hotline 078101100/0206006041.

E-waste generation in the country has become alarming yet we don’t have regulations and laws to control its disposal. What is the authority doing to sensitise and educate public on e-waste handling and disposal?

Brian Gichuru, Nanyuki

Brian there is no vacuum. NEMA has granted operating licenses to particular facilities to handle e-wastes as per the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination (Waste Management) Regulations 2006 (Please refer to NEMA website for contacts and list of licence holders). Furthermore the Authority has developed National Guidelines for E-Waste management to help with the sensitization and education on the safe handling of E-Waste. This has been done at various fora. Finally NEMA, in collaboration with stakeholders has developed an E-Waste Regulation which is at an advanced stage of finalization.

Do we as a country have legislation that addresses disposal of hazardous and radioactive waste? The current Waste Regulations 2006 seems not up to the task as its lacks key components to manage the hazardous waste generated.

Brian Gichuru, Nanyuki

The Environmental Management and Coordination CAP 387 provides for the management of hazardous and radioactive waste. Furthermore Waste Management Regulations 2006 has provisions on Hazardous and Toxic Waste (Part IV); provisions on Pesticides and toxic substances (Part V); Provisions on Biomedical Wastes (Part VI); Provisions on standards for treatment and disposal of wastes including hazardous wastes (Third Schedule) and list of wastes considered hazardous (Fourth Schedule). The National Solid Waste Management strategy has covered most of the components regarding the handling of hazardous waste but we encourage you to share with us the components that you feel are not well covered in the strategy for consideration.

Further, Kenya is a signatory of the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and NEMA serves as the operational focal point for this convention. In accordance with the Kenya Constitution, all international or regional environmental agreements or treaties that Kenya signs automatically become law in Kenya. Through compliance and enforcement assessments, feedback mechanisms and emerging concerns (e.g. oil and gas), gaps in the regulations have been noted and plans for reviews are on course.