Kwa Kadzengo residents in Kilifi south sub county are up in arms against a private developer reclaiming a wetland in the area.
The residents are accusing the developer of backfilling a swamp against the law.
Led by Mtepeni MCA Victor Mwaganda, the residents said the company has slowly been backfilling the swamp despite an order from the county government to stop.
“The backfilling started two months ago and residents raised the issue to me,” said Mwaganda on Saturday at the swamp.
The Kilifi county department of lands, energy, housing, physical planning and urban development then wrote the company a letter on March 27 stopping the backfilling.
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In the letter signed by county development control officer Paul Wambua, the county accused the firm of developing the reclaimed land without permission from the county.
“You are hereby required to stop immediately all works for backfilling of the wetlands,” read the letter.
However, Mwaganda said the company has been backfilling the swamp secretly at night after the stop order.
A fisherman said the company offered him some money to put some markers on the swamp to show where the backfilling will end.
“It was initially some meters into the swamp but they asked me to extend it further into the swamp. I could not refuse the money because I needed it,” he said.
The residents fear the backfilling of the swamp will change the course of the streams that bring the water into it and over time, and with the rains pounding, the water will find alternative routes and into their homes.
It will then affect about 300 families who live near or depend on the swamp.
“Then we will be told we have built our houses on riparian land and evicted,” said Samuel Karisa, a resident who has depended on the swamp for over 40 years.
Residents fish from the swamp, with some elders performing traditional rituals occasionally in it.
“We use this swamp as a source of livelihood too because we fish from it. Today, some wealthy person wants to backfill it and deny us our livelihood? No way,” said Karisa.
The swamp is just situated along the Mombasa-Malindi highway.
The company is said to be backfilling the Kadzengo land and using the reclaimed land to build some godowns.
Already, some development is taking place on the reclaimed land.
Mwaganda said already, a quarter of the swamp has been reclaimed and the markers have been put halfway through the swamp indicating the company intends to reclaim half of it.
“We don’t know what powers these people have. But whatever it is, their powers will not supersede the power of the people,” Mwaganda said.
The Meteorological department has warned of heavy rains in Kilifi.
Mwaganda said: “When the rains pound, and this swamp is filled, the water will flow into the residential houses and we might have a disaster like in Chesegon in Rift Valley. We don’t want that here.”
He said already, the families are suffering enough because of the coronavirus pandemic and do not need any more disruptions.
“I was never consulted by anyone on this project. The people of Kadzengo were not consulted. They do not have the blessings of the people,” said Mwaganda, who said the swamp was left in their care by their forefathers.
Kilifi Social Justice Centre rapid response officer Eric Mgoja said any wetland is a public property and should not be used by private entities for private gains.
“The National Land Commission has a duty to protect all wetlands including the Kadzengo swamp from people like this company,” said Mgoja.
He called on the county government to enforce their own order strictly.