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Court halts Great Wall housing project in Athi River

Thursday February 06 2020
Athi

The incomplete phase 3 of the Great Wall Gardens housing development in Athi River, Machakos County, as pictured on February 6, 2020. PHOTO | STEPHEN MUTHINI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
By STEPHEN MUTHINI

A court has once against suspended construction of 688 housing units in Athi River, Machakos County, a project by Erdemann Property Limited.

The Tuesday order by Justice Charles Mbogo, of the Environment and Land Court in Makueni, set aside ex-parte directives by the same court on December 20, 2019, which allowed Erdemann to continue the construction.

This is the second time the court has halted the project by a Chinese investor, which has faced opposition by neighbouring London Distillers Kenya (LDK) Limited.

PROCEEDINGS

The case pits Erdemann against the National Environment Tribunal, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and LDK.

Erdemann is seeking to overturn orders by the tribunal, which halted further construction of its Great Wall Gardens Housing Development phase 3, following an application by LDK.

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LDK told the court that this was Erdemann's sixth application challenging orders issued by the tribunal.

It accused the property developer of abusing the court process by filing parallel proceedings in different courts, thereby shopping for suitable orders.

The trial judge wondered how the parties were to proceed before the tribunal yet they had been sued in three other cases by Erdemann, on account of stay orders issued on September 4, 2019 and reiterated on December 6, 2019.

The developer has built over 2,000 housing units and had already launched construction of phase 3, which has 688 units.

LDK, which has raised complaints about issues including sewage disposal, said it was wrong for Erdemann to carry on with this phase yet issues it raised regarding phase 2 had not been resolved.

MIXED-USE

The distiller said Erdemann should not have been allowed to construct residential houses in the area as there are several industrial operations.

LDK, which was established more than 35 years ago, argued that the proposed development will impact negatively on the environment as the site is within a mixed-use zone.

It said there is evidence in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that having a residential housing project within a zone with several industries is not desirable.

Mr Benjamin Langwen, LDK's Environmental Adviser, said, "The project is not compatible with LDK operations and other industries within the project zone. If allowed, it will be a major source of conflict in future."

BOREHOLES

Mr Langwen also said the project will require a massive supply of water for domestic use but that aquifers are over-abstracted, thus drilling of more boreholes should not be allowed.

The distiller said said two of its boreholes dried up due to a previous project by Great Wall Housing Development, which it also opposed.

"The project site has no sewer line. This will be a major disaster in future if it is allowed, "Mr Langwen said, adding that LDK, being the immediate project-affected and project-interested party, was not consulted in line with the law.

ERDERMANN'S DEFENCE

Erdemann's Head of Planning, Mr John Rajwayi, said an there were plans for an elaborate sewer system and a storm water drainage system.

Once completed, Mr Rajwayi said, they will effectively put the contentious matter of sewage disposal to rest.

He also noted that Erdemann raised the issue of environmental pollution by LDK after tenants complained of a foul smell from the liquor factory.

The two companies have been entangled in a tag of war, that has seen them accuse each other of polluting the environment.

The dispute spilled over to the National Assembly, which sent two committees to the site on a fact-finding mission.

The ruling on whether the developer will be allowed to continue with phase 3's construction will be delivered on March 3.

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