NEMA gets 10 more police officers to jump-start fizzling enforcement of environmental laws
The National Police Service (NPS) has seconded 10 police officers to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to bolster the agency’s withering environmental law enforcement activities.
Immediately they were introduced before Environment CS, Keriako Tobiko at NEMA headquarters on Saturday, the officers received their first orders- to hit the ground running.
“You have no luxury of time. I will not entertain laxity and any other bureaucracies. You come here with a purpose,” tough talking Tobiko told the officers.
The need for environmental protection, the CS said is urgent since harmful pollutants were being discharged into the air, while raw untreated waste, was directly discharged to the Nairobi River.
He went on to explain to the officers that the task ahead of them requires their firm commitment. He said this is because they were up against some of the polluters of air, water and the general environment who would go to any lengths to curtail their work.
But he told them to discharge their duties without fear or favour, and warned the officers against listening to anyone who boasted of connection to the powers that be.
“It does not matter who is responsible for the pollution. It does not matter whether it is an individual, company or whoever. No person is above the law. I instruct you to apply the law without fear or favour; irrespective of the person’s connection.
“Don’t listen to those who say I know so and so; I can make a telephone call. If they want to make a call give them my number,” the CS breathed fire.
He said NEMA leadership has instructions to fully facilitate the officers so that there are no excuses.
“You will be working closely with the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP); which has also established an environmental prosecution unit to facilitate a seamless coordination between enforcement, investigation and prosecution,” he added.
The CS told the officers that enforcement of environmental laws could look different from their usual beat of monitoring common criminal activities; apprehending perpetrators and taking them to court, but in the real sense, it was similar.
“One would ask a question; what will the police with guns do with environment, but the answer is simple, police officers are supposed to protect life and property and maintain law and order. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s where environment is all about,” he said.
The agency currently under acting director general, Mamo Boru Mamo, a career environmentalist, put up a spirited fight in the better part of last year, and saw a number of companies and other businesses discharging raw waste into the Nairobi River’s business permits withdrawn.
However, these efforts fizzled out in what the environmental regulator explained that a combination of aspects including lack of adequate resources and personnel to push the enforcement beyond the courts hampered the efforts.
“Poor solid waste management, encroachment of riparian reserves by informal settlements, pollution of the rivers by effluent from the sewer lines, poor planning, insecurity and inaccessibility of the informal settlements and inadequate resources are some of the sources of rivers pollution in the country,” Mamo said last year.
The perpetrators, he said, also have an easy way out once they are taken to court where they are either slapped with lenient fines, or obtain legal injunctions that drag such cases for a long time.
The officers who were received by the Authority on Saturday include; eight constables, a sergeant and corporal who will all be working under Chief Inspector Jackson Mwangi. This brings the number to 20 police officers to the NEMA police unit plus 10 others who were posted to the Authority last year.
“They will undertake investigation of environmental crimes, prosecute offenders, secure environmental crime scenes and enforce environmental laws among other duties,” the Acting DG said.
Tobiko had explained to the officers that environment is about life, and their work will not be limited to focusing only on those who discharge chemicals and waste into rivers, but also air polluters.
“The air we breathe is environment. How many of us here in factories, enterprises discharge harmful pollutants into our air?” he posed explaining that air pollution is a major contributor to disease.
“The water in our streams is life. It is the water we drink. It’s the water our livestock drink. It’s the water we use to grow crops and the vegetables that we feed on,” he said.
The officers will serve in the 47 NEMA county offices and others run the police sub- station at the Headquarters.
Samuel Boit, the deputy in charge of Police Operations in Nairobi Region presented the 10 officers to Authority on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, Hillary Mutyambai.
If you go to Nairobi River and follow its course, starting with Michuki Park which we are currently working on, the filth and stench that comes out of it is sickening, the CS told them.
“And if this is not stopped, it will turn the Thwake dam that’s being constructed into a sewage reservoir. I require daily reports of actions taken,” he added.
NEMA Board Chairman, John Konchellah noted that the Authority had made deliberate efforts to partner with the office of the Inspector General in getting additional officers to support the existing team in enforcement duties.