Inadequate ESIA a threat to the Construction of Office Complex in Mombasa

By HSE East Africa | Wednesday Sep 6, 2017

The Mombasa County government on Monday announced that it has stopped the construction of a KSh1.8 billion Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) office complex along Mbaraki Road in the Mbaraki area of Mombasa.

While making the announcement, County Secretary Francis Thoya cited risks to tenants living in residential houses adjacent to the construction site following collapse of a boundary wall during excavation of the site. Mr. Thoya also claimed that the county government was not notified prior to commencement of the excavation at the site and demanded that the affected tenants be compensated and relocated to ensure their safety before any works could resume.

The affected tenants observed that the excavation works posed great danger to them due to the weak ground in the area. The contractor’s representative Mr. Moses Ndambuki on his part said that they were already working to stabilize the ground after realizing the problem.

The project whose construction began in February consists of an office block and auxiliary amenities. Upon completion the building shall consist of 3 basement floors, 16 floors above ground, an observatory level and a roof level featuring a helipad. 

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report presented to NEMA for approval in January 2017 on behalf of the KMA suggests that the proponent did not anticipate the current problem. The report however identifies noise as one of the negative impacts that would be inevitable during demolition and construction phases. The report recommends use of acoustic screens around noisy working areas to contain noises as well as restricting noisy construction activities to day time only. 

It is worth noting that the EIA report only refers to noise during the demolition of existing building and movement of vehicles and construction equipment. Whereas the report notes that excavation, for the building foundation would create loose soil that may easily be carried away by water or wind, it fails to consider the impacts of the excavation on the surrounding infrastructure. The report does not anticipate vibrations at any stage during the construction raising doubts on the screening and scoping stages of the EIA considering the magnitude of the construction project.

Following the orders by the county government, the proponent may have to bear additional costs following delays in completion of the project, relocation of the persons affected by the construction as well as efforts to stabilize the ground to allow construction to proceed.

Failure to adequately address the excavation stage in the construction process means that the report lacks a provision of an action plan for the prevention and management of foreseeable accidents and hazardous activities in the cause of carrying out the excavation activities as required in the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations of 2003.

It could therefore be that the challenges facing the Kenya Maritime Authority could have been averted if well addressed in the EIA, hence saving the proponent and contractor valuable time as well as additional costs incurred in the construction.

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