The high-profile demolitions of multimillion-shilling buildings in Nairobi is the clearest signal yet that the government is finally ready and willing to confront the vice that is illegal acquisition of public land.
Thus far, the drive is to rid riparian land of illegal structures and protect the ecosystem, which is commendable.
But the drive must extend beyond reclaiming riparian land to cover all other irregularly acquired public lands — including road reserves, forests and other utilities.
Also, it must expand outside Nairobi to include other cities, including Mombasa, where some private developers have even acquired title deeds for parts of the sea.
The craze for acquisition of land is amazing in this country. What is reported in Nairobi is merely the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, the cases are well documented.
NO TOWN IS SAFE
The country is awash with all kinds of land malpractices. No town or village is safe. The tragedy of Patel Dam in Solai, Nakuru County, which had resulted from illegal damming and changing the river course, is fresh in our minds.
In Nairobi, for example, one of the properties brought down on Lang'ata Road has been the object of public outrage for the past three years and, despite pledges by various government agencies and the county authorities to bring it down, nothing was ever done.
Even so, it is distressing that the illegal allocations are done through conniving public officers and under the watch of regulators and the national or local governments.
Most of the developers have approvals from the respective authorities.
Worse, the developers easily obtain court injunctions that bar the authorities from stopping or bringing down such illegal structures.
In other words, a system has evolved involving land dealers, government officials and courts that promotes illegal acquisition and possession of such properties.
Unless that is brought to an end, we risk losing all land for public utilities, messing up the environment and endangering our lives.
Our argument, though, is that the whole question of illegal structures ought to be tackled broadly and with a long-term view.
There are those built on irregularly acquired land and, equally, those that have no approvals at all and done shoddily without compliance to structural and architectural designs.
The latter often collapse, killing and injuring many and leaving devastation on their trail —— et their developers seldom get punished.
The National Environment Management Authority has shown it has teeth and can bite. It must sustain the tempo.
Other regulators such as the National Construction Authority, responsible for enforcing building standards, or other agencies like Kenya National Highways Authority, responsible for preserving road reserves, as well as county authorities, must all come out and fight grabbing, encroachment and illegal allocations of public land.