KEPSA participated in the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC) consultative meeting ‘Public Interest Litigation on Education’ held on 11th April 2018 at NECC offices in South C. The engagement was coordinated by the Committee Members lead by Caroline Khasoa and the Secretary of the Committee, Dr. John Chumo.
The Public Complaints Committee (PCC) is an environmental ombudsman that was established under Sections 31 to 36 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, 1999 with the mandate to investigate allegations or complaints regarding the condition of the environment in Kenya, or on its own motion, suspected cases of environmental degradation.
Article 20 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, provides that if a person alleges that a right to a clean and healthy environment under article 42 has been infringed, violated and threatened, the person may apply to court for redress in addition to any other legal remedy available. The review of EMCA, 1999 of PCC to NECC, added the mandate of conducting Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the environment vide Legal Notice No. 5 of 2015. The amendment gave NECC a legal status to litigate environmental cases in local and international courts. It provides an accelerated and inexpensive forum for conflict resolution of members of the public on environmental matters. It will also have enhanced capacity including staffing and budgetary allocation.
NECC mission is to enhance access to environmental justice. It has handled cases on waste management – over 30% of the cases, water pollution – 9%, Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA) – 12%, deforestations’ – 9%, land use issues especially of encroachment to riparian lands12%, air pollution – 19%, noise pollution- 13% Other cases include quarrying, poor physical planning and zoning practices. Emergent areas of PIL include water issues arising from construction of dams, energy extraction and mega infrastructure such as SGR and LAPPSET that have significant impact on the environment and the green agenda.
NECC intends to structure its PIL in terms of staff and resources and make PIL known to the public. NECC has therefore initiated a process of enacting a PIL manual to guide its operations. The scope of the manual will include strategies for legal redress on environmental matters, technicalities for conducting investigations, procedures of steering environmental PIL, provision of PIL advisory on environmental matters, community engagement, sensitization and awareness creation on PIL mechanisms to the general public.
If well-coordinated, PIL on environmental matters can achieve broader policy issues, influence reforms in environmental management, improve accountability, and address historical injustices of marginalized groups. It can also serve as an avenue for citizens to voice their complaints and concerns on the protection of the environment.
The role of the PCC comes in handy at a time when Kenyans are environmentally conscious because of the negative impact of climate change and deforestation. NECC is key in driving a sustainable development agenda that balances economic growth and environmental concerns. KEPSA will partner with NECC to develop the PILmanual and also help create awareness of the PIL mechanisms to its members.