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Ukay Centre in ruins as Nema pushes on with demolitions

Friday August 10 2018

Ukay Centre

Ukay Centre in Nairobi being demolished on August 10, 2018. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The owner of Ukay Centre in Westlands, Nairobi, was on Friday at pains as he saw excavators reduce his multimillion shillings investment into a rubble.

The building is said to have been constructed on top of a river, a claim its management refutes.

Mr Vareel Shah, the property manager, said that the public has always been “misguided” that there is a permanent river flowing beneath the building.

“There is no river under the building. The mall’s only structure bordering the ‘stream’ is the garage,” he said, insisting that there is only small water canal behind the building which really does not qualify to be termed as a river.

However, anyone walking along the road separating the mall and the Oshwal Centre will notice water gurgling through a constructed waterway into another man-made passage.

Yesterday’s demolition that began at around 5am almost turned tragic at one point when flying debris hit an excavator, almost burying the machine and its operator, who escaped unhurt.


A day earlier, Mr Bimal Shah, who is a director of Kental Enterprises that owns Ukay Centre, had made a passionate plea to the National Assembly’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, saying he had secured all the necessary permits before the construction began.

“Today I came with my wife so that if I collapse, she will be able to take me home.

"I believe that this committee will be able to advise the task force to stop what they are doing now,” Mr Shah said.

But in a couple of hours, the mall was going up in dust.

Other buildings whose owners appeared before MPs include Tribe Hotel, Taj Apartment, Gem Suites Hotel, Makupa Transit Shade, Mombasa Cement, and Multiple ICD Limited.

Mr Sanjay Shah, a Director of Tribe Hotel that is said to have been built on a wetland, requested the committee for more time, saying their consultant is out of the country.


Mr Charles Kikuvi, a commercial director at Gem Suites, said that a perimeter wall, which was the point of contention with the environmentalists, has already been brought down.

“Initially, we were within the law but subsequent expansion of the river banks saw the hotel wall fall within the riparian area. When officials from Nema came, they took measurements and advised that the wall be brought down,” Mr Kikuvi said.

Owners of South End Mall, Taj Apartment and Civicon Kenya did not show up for the Wednesday National Assembly questioning.

South End Mall had been torn down by then.

The wave of demolitions has left developers of buildings and tenants in the city living in fear.

One of those who has borne the brunt of the demolition is Ms Rose Mary, who owns a home at Sunflower apartments at the junction of Ring Road Kileleshwa and Arboretum Drive, whose perimeter wall and swimming pull were ruined on Monday.

“Why didn’t they sensitise us first that our property was too close to the river? They should have told us that they will clean the river for us,” she questioned.


At Ukay Centre, most tenants had moved their goods out of the facility by Wednesday night.

“We heard that we were given up to Tuesday next week to remove our goods but was shocked this morning when we came here to find the demolition going on,” one tenant said.

Mr Vareel said Ukay Centre got approval in 1994, noting crucial documents had been buried under the rubble.

More buildings sitting on riparian land across the city are set to be demolished after President Uhuru Kenyatta backed the exercise, noting the Nairobi Regeneration Initiative team should bring down structures built on questionable property.