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The subject of environmental law is focused on how environmental activities are
managed. This unit focuses on the legal regimes in Kenya and dwells on national
The focus basically covers:
- The history of modern environmental law,
- Theories and justifications for environmental law
- Various sectors of environmental law, which are dealt with
- Laws relating to physical planning, management of water resources, waste and
The term describes the interaction between human activities and mechanisms that exist
for regulating the impact of human activities on the environment. The environment has
been described as everything that is not me – this is attributed to Albert Einstein who
said ‘the environment is everything that is not me’ an all-encompassing definition that
covers everything. In terms of management the environment is therefore dealt with thru
sectors and so there is a system for managing the natural environment, the physical
environment, the economic environment, the political environment, the social
The subject matter here is the physical environment. The natural environment is that
component of the environment constituted without primary human intervention.
Human intervention to the extent that it exists is indirect. We are not saying that they
have had nothing to do with it but they had no primacy to do with it. The natural
environment exists in and on itself but human intervention forms part of the dynamism
of the natural environment.
Human beings themselves are part of nature and humans exist in two worlds, the
natural world and the human world. This means they are part of nature but at the same
time independent of nature. The way humans define nature depends on the way
humans appreciate nature. For instance, some human beings may think of the forest as
a dangerous place and others as a beautiful recreational ground and yet others as a
good source for timber poles.
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Humans have an impact on nature because humans depend on nature for their
sustenance. They cut down trees, hunt animals and so on. This is part of natural
processes. Nature has the capacity to absorb the impact of human activity. Nature is
dynamic, subject to constant change. Part of that change arises from human activity.
Consequently, human reliance on the environment for sustenance is a natural process.
With the development of human society, the ability of human beings to have an impact
on nature has also increased. This increased ability has arisen from on the one hand an
increase in human population and on the other an increase in technological capability.
The combined effect of increased technological effect and human activity means that
present day human society has a far superior ability to cause an impact on nature than
earlier human societies. The increased impact of human activity on nature tends to
destabilize the natural balance. Instability in the natural balance manifests itself in
The subject mater of environmental law is to put in place measures to ensure that
human activities do not lead to environmental degradation. Modern environmental law
can be traced to the 1960s. It was triggered by the experience of industrial pollution in
western industrialized countries. In the period after the Second World War western
countries developed their industries as a response to the economic problems that they
were then experiencing. The development of industries in the west created serious
congestion in urban areas as labour migrated into towns but it also created serious
industrial pollution because the industries emitted gasses and discharged wastes into
In the late 1960s proposed to hold a conference to discuss the implications on the
environment of the industrialization that was then going on in the west. The conference
was planned for Stockholm, Sweden and the agenda of the conference focused on
industrial pollution and urban settlements. The non-industrialised countries at the time
took the view that the proposed conference was not going to address their problems.
Their problems arose from poverty and the low level of economic growth whereas the
conference was preoccupied with urban settlements and industrial pollution. They
therefore showed no interest in attending the conference.
In 1969 the UN convened a meeting at a town called Founex, Switzerland to discuss the
concerns of the non-industrialised countries and it was agreed that ways be found to
factor in issues of poverty into the conference. The UN Conference on Environment and
Human Settlements was held in Stockholm in June 1972. The outcome of the conference
was the establishment of a program of the UN to deal with environmental issues. That
program was the United Nations Environment Program - UNEP and in 1974, its
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headquarters was located in Nairobi. The conference established also a center for
human settlements known as the UN Center For Human Settlements and that center
was also located in Nairobi. Subsequently, the center was renamed HABITAT. Two
outcomes were thus the establishment of UNEP and HABITAT (focused on human
In 1982, UNEP recommended to the General Assembly that discussions needed to be
continued on the question of the relationship between poverty and environmental
concerns. The UNGA established a commission known as the UN Commission on
Environment and Development chaired by the then PM of Norway, Ms Groharlem
Brundtland. The Commission published their report in 1987, commonly known as the
Brundtland Report but whose official is known as ‘Our Common Future: The Report of
the UN Commission on Environment and Human Development’. It discussed the
relationship between environment and development and argued that environmental
protection was not necessarily contrary to economic growth. It argued that economic
growth could be made compatible with environmental protection and that it was
necessary to make economic growth compatible with environmental protection because
that was the only way in which development could be made sustainable. The
Commission defined sustainable development as development which meets the needs
of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs.
Sustainable development as a concept quickly gained widespread support. In June of
1992 the UN General Assembly held a 20
anniversary conference to the Stockholm
conference in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The UN Conference on Environment and
Development – changed from the UN Conference on Environment and Human
Settlements in 1972. At the 1992 Conference, the International Community endorsed the
concept of sustainable development. The UN Conference on Environment and
Development approved the Rio Declaration which endorsed the principle of sustainable
development as the way to reconcile the demands for economic growth and the
imperative to protect the environment. The conference also approved the document
known as Agenda 21 which is the statement of principles of how to achieve sustainable
development in the 21
century. The concept of sustainable development provides the
philosophical underpinnings for modern environmental management.
The concept appeared to satisfy both developing and developed countries – a way in
which both could rally around the idea of environmental protection. The rationale for it
is the idea of prudent management of resources. The Brundtland Commission adopted
the analogy of capital and interest. Capital is the inherited sum. One was to think of the
resources as capital, we had to live off them but leave them intact for future generations
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so that the capital was always there. Hence slogans like if u cut one tree, u plant two
The philosophy was very attractive and the concept of sustainable development came to
dominate the way people think of environmental management. A small group has
continued to express dissatisfaction though and have highlighted two fundamental
- The concept is unduly centered on human interest (anthropocentricity). The Rio
Declaration principle 1 in fact states that human beings are at the center of concerns for
sustainable development. Thus critics say the concept subjects other components of
nature to satisfying the needs of human beings. This means human beings determine
whether other parts of nature will die or survive depending on whether human beings
like it or not. This they argue is not nature but nature as created by human beings. The
world inherits resources not exactly as they were. They argued for a biocentric system, a
concept centered on all living organisms.
- As a concept, it promotes a false notion of equity. There are two kinds of equity: Equity
between the present generations (intragenerational equity) and between the present
generations and future generations (intergenerational equity). Sustainable development
focuses on intergenerational equity. One of the leading proponents of sustainable
development, Edith Brown Lee wrote ‘In fairness to future generations’. The critics
argue that in encouraging us to think of future generations it takes away our attention
from the unfairness to present generations. There is no fairness in the way the resources
of the world are distributed for instance. Africa has 1% of the wealth of the world and
instead of focusing on that unfairness today we are thinking of the future.
Thus, the critics argue that the concept of sustainable development is flawed.
Nevertheless, the concept has taken center stage in the way in which we manage
environmental resources. The subject of environmental law revolves around this.
The Law Dealing with Physical Planning
Physical planning refers to the management of the use of physical space. The history of
physical planning dates back to the common law in 18
century England under which
the landowner has rights of use and abuse of the land which the particular landowner
has. The right to use the right to put the land to productive purposes while the right to
abuse is the right to commit waste on the land. The landowners right of use and abuse
is only limited by an equal right of use and abuse in neighbouring landowners. Where
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the use or abuse to which landowner puts land cause or threatens to cause damage to
neighbouring land the neighbouring landowner has a remedy under the law of
nuisance to stop the damaging use or abuse.
Nuisance is a remedy available to protect owners or occupiers of land from the
damaging effects of the unreasonable use of land by a neighbouring landowner. The
right of action available to one landowner is equally available to all landowners. With
the development of the modern state, the state arrogated to itself the right to take action
to protect land from damaging use arising from unreasonable use by neighbouring
landowners, and what the state assumed was the power available to all landowners to
protect land from damaging use. The state power in this regard is referred to as police
When the state acts in exercise of police power it may restrict the use to which the
landowner may put his or her land. Because the restriction is intended to prevent
damaging use of the land no compensation is payable to the landowner whose use of
land is restricted. The implication of the states exercise of police power is that the
landowners right to develop his or her land may be curtailed.
It is upon this premise that the law of physical planning has arisen. Physical planning
controls the use of physical space. It comprises two parts.
1. The physical plan
2. Development control
The physical plan is a statement of the objectives which it is sought to achieve in using
particular physical space whereas development control is the process of subjecting
proposed developments to consideration with a view to determining whether the
proposed developments conform to the physical plan.
Residences, churches, police
Industries, landfills, army,
Entertainment spots, national
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The key purpose to achieve is to ensure that incompatible uses are separated one from
the other in order to ensure that nuisance is minimized.
For instance above, residences to be near churches and institutions away from national
parks. The industries are not too far to avoid long commuting distances.
The second step is to ensure proposed developments conform to the plan.
The law relating to physical planning in Kenya
This is dealt with in the Physical Planning Act CAP.286 of the Laws of Kenya. It is
complemented by two other statutes:
Land Control Act – CAP 302
Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999
The Land Control Act is not predominantly perceived as a means of physical planning
but in fact it is. It is an act whose objective is to regulate developments in agricultural
land. It establishes land control boards and subjects transactions in agricultural land to
the requirement for an approval by the land control board. Anybody proposing to
transfer, transmit or subdivide agricultural land must obtain the permission of the land
Transfer occurs inter vivos when both parties are alive, transmission occurs where the
owner has died.
The objective of the Land Control Act is to ensure that good husbandry/agricultural
practice is promoted. That one does not subdivide beyond the point that it is possible to
use it for agriculture.
The Environmental Management and Coordination Act is an act designed to provide a
system for coordinating activities which have an impact on the environment. Part IV of
the Act provides for environmental planning. It establishes a National Environment
Action Plan Committee. The function of the Committee is to prepare a National
Environment Action Plan at least every five years. The National Environment Action
Plan is required to contain among other things guidelines for the use of land. The
process of preparing the plan is that at district level the district environment action plan
is prepared which gives guidelines for the use of land in the district. All the district
plans are then assembled at the province and the provincial environment action plan is
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prepared. Finally, the Provincial Environment Action Plan is incorporated with plans
from other provinces to constitute the National Environment Action Plan.
Presently, the Environmental Action Planning process has not started and the ways in
which this plan will relate to the physical plan is not yet clear but the idea is that for
purposes of environmental management there will be a plan. The physical planning Act
replaced two earlier statutes:
- The Town Planning Act
- The Land Planning Act
Both Acts were repealed when the physical planning Act came into effect in November
The Act provides for the preparation and implementation of physical development
plans. It establishes the office of the director of physical planning whose job it is to
formulate national, regional and local physical development and advise commissioner
of the lands and local authorities on the most appropriate use of land including land
It establishes physical planning liaison committees at national, provincial and district
levels and the function of the committees is to act as an appeal body against the
decisions of the director of physical planning and his officials.
The Act provides for two kinds of plans:
A regional physical development plan
A local physical development plan
The regional physical development plan is prepared by the director with reference to
any government land, trust land or private land within the area of authority of the
county council whereas a local physical development plan is prepared by director with
reference to government land, trust land or private land within the area of the city,
municipal, town or urban council or a trading or marketing center.
Under section 23 of the Act, the director may declare an area with unique development
potential or problems to be a special planning area and for this purpose may prepare
the physical development plan for the area irrespective of whether it lies within another
local authority. The regional physical development plan has the purpose of improving
the land and providing for the proper physical development of the land and finally to
secure suitable provision for transport, public purposes, utilities and services –
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commercial, industrial, residential and recreational areas including parks, open spaces
and reserves. The plan shall consist of a technical report on the commissions resources
and facilities of the area and a statement of the policies and proposals of the area. What
are the policies with regards to the allocations of resources and locations of
development within the area?
Thirdly, an explanation and justification of the policies and proposals. Maps and plans
showing the present and future land uses and development in the area.
With regards to the local physical development plan it is prepared for the purposes of
guiding and coordinating the development of infrastructure and services in the area. It
consists of the survey in respect of the area and maps and descriptions which indicate
the manner in which the land may be used.
In the 3
Schedule to the Act provision is made for what must appear in that document.
Provision must be made for:
- the locations of factories and industries generally
- buildings for commercial purposes
- open spaces
- public and private use
- and facilities for waste disposal
The process for developing the plans requires that the director prepares the plan and
within 30 days he notifies the local authority of the existence of the plan and publishes
the notice in the gazette. Within 60 days anybody with objections to the plan must
notify the director giving reasons. IF the director rejects the objections the objector may
appeal to the relevant to the relevant physical planning liaison committee. If no
objections are received or if the ones received have been dealt with, the director shall
certify the plan and give it to the minister for his approval. The minister (for Lands)
may approve the plan with or without modifications or he may require the director to
prepare another one.
Within 14 days of the minister’s approval the plan shall be published in the gazette and
the notice shall state where it may be inspected. An approved plan shall have full force
and effect in the area to which it relates and every person shall comply with its
requirements and no development shall take place on any land unless it is in conformity
with the plan. A plan that has been approved may be amended or modified and the
reasons for this may be that there are practical difficulties in its implementation or
enforcement or that there has been a change of circumstances since the plan was
approved. If there’s a proposal to modify, then the proposed modifications must be
published in the gazette and people given a chance to make representations or to object.
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If there are no objections or if the objections or if the objections that are received have
been dealt with then the director will submit the proposed modifications to the minister
for his approval. The same process will take place afterwards.
The role of local authority here is merely to make comments, a big change from the
position before 1988 under which the local authorities made the plans. Now the director
makes the plans. This was because of the unreliability and inefficiency associated with
EXERCISE OF DEVELOPMENT CONTROL
1. Section 30 PPA: no person shall carry out development within the area of L.A
without development permission.
2. It is an offence punishable upto a fine of sh 100,000 and an imprisonment term
up to 5 years or both to carry out development without development permission.
Any development traditionally which carried out without development
permission is null and void and the L.A. will require the developer to restore the
land on which such development has taken place to its original condition within
a period of 90 days.
3. If after 90 days the developer has not restored the land as required the L.A. itself
may restore the land and recover the cost incurred from the developer. L.A. is
able to demolish the building.
4. No licencing authority shall grant a licence for commercial or industrial use or
occupation for any building or in respect of any premises of land for which no
development. Permission has been granted by the L.A.
Commercial use includes shops, offices, hotels, restaurants, bars, kiosks, markets and
Industrial use includes manufacturing, processing, distilling and brewing, warehouses
and storage, workshops and garages and petroleum filling stations.
The L.A. itself may not grant development permission without a certificate of
compliance issued by the director of physical planning. Advises L.A. minister in respect
of development of land.
Development is defined in section 3 of the Act and means the making of any material
change in the use or density of any land or buildings on land or the subdivision of land
or alternatively the erection of buildings or works provided that;
1. Carrying out of works for the maintenance or improvement or other alteration or
addition to any building where the alteration or addition to any building where
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the alteration or addition does not exceed 10% of the floor area of the building
measured on the date this Act becomes applicable to the area shall not constitute
2. Carrying out by a competent authority of any works required for the
construction or improvement or maintenance of a road shall not constitute
3. Carrying out by an L.A. or statutory body of works for the purpose of preparing
or inspecting or renewing sewers, mines, pipes, cables or other apparatus
including the breaking open of the street for purposes of installing services shall
not constitute development.
a) The deposit of refuse/waste material of land involves the change of use of land.
b) The use of two or more dwellings for a building previously used as one dwelling shall
c) The erection of more than one dwelling or shop or the erection of both dwelling and
shop on one plot constitutes development.
d) Display of any advertisement constitutes development.
e) The use of any building or land within the curtiledge(areas adjoining) of a dwelling for
purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling constitutes development.
Under section 29, each L.A. has power to
i) Prohibit or control the use of land development of land and buildings in the interest of
proper and orderly development of its area.
ii) Control or prohibit the subdivision of land into small areas
iii) Consider and approve all development applications and grant all development
iv) Ensure the proper execution and implementation of physically approved areas
v) Formulate by-laws to regulate zoning in respect of use and density of development.
vi) Reserve and maintain all the land planned for open spaces, parks, urban forests and
A person requiring a development permission shall make an application to the clerk
of the L.A. responsible for the area in which the land is situated.
The application shall be accompanied by such plans and particulars as are necessary
to indicate the purposed use and density of the development.
Upon receipt of the application the L.A. within 30 days refer it to the director of
Physical Planning for his comments. Additionally, the L.A. may consult any of the
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1. Director of survey
2. Commissioner of lands
3. Chief Engineer of Road
4. Chief Public Health Officer
5. Director of Agriculture
6. Director of Water and Development
7. Director of Urban Development
8. Director of Livestock Development
9. Chief Architect
10. Director of forests
In considering the application, the L.A. shall be bound by the relevant regional or local
physical development plan. It shall have regard to the health, amenities and
convenience of the community generally and to the proper planning and density of
land use in the area. It shall have regard to any comments received.
If the development application requires the subdivision or change of use of agricultural
land the L.A. shall require the application be referred to the relevant LCB.
The L.A. may grant or refuse to grant planning permission. If it refuses, it shall state its
reasons. If it grants, it may improve conditions.
A person who is dissatisfied with the L.A.’s decision, may appeal to the relevant P.P.
liaison committee. A further appeal lies from the P.P. liaison committee to the H.C.
Under section 36 if in connection with a development application, a L.A. is of the
opinion that the proposal will have an injurious impact on the environment then the
L.A. may require the developer (applicant) to submit on an environmental impact
assessment report (EIA). Where development permission has not been obtained the
registrar of lands may refuse to register the documents relating to the development
unless development permission is granted.
In terms of enforcement, section 38 gives the L.A. power to issue an enforcement
notice where development permission has not been obtained or where the conditions of
a development permission have not been complied with.
The enforcement notice shall specify the development alleged to be carried out
without development permission or the conditions which have been contravened. It
shall state also the period of time within which action shall be taken to restore the land
to its previous condition. The notice may require the demolition of the building or the
discontinuance of any use of the land or the discontinuance of carrying out any
activities on the land.
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The person aggrieved by the notice may appeal to the PPLC and a further appeal
to the H.C. If the notice is not complied with the L.A. may enter the land and take the
measures required and recover costs incurred from the person on whom the notice was
Finally, the Act prohibits subdividing land unless permission has been given the
L.A. to subdivide the land. When an application for subdivision is made the L.A. shall
publish a notice in the gazette and also in newspapers circulating in the area. If it
receives an objection to the application it shall notify the applicant of the objections and
give the applicant an opportunity to respond to the objections and following that, it
may then determine the application.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
EIA may be called for, as in section 36, where the L.A. is of the view that the
proposed development may have an injurious impact on the environment. The
provision under the P.P.A. does not impose a mandatory requirement for
environmental impact assessment.
Under the EMCA part VI there is a mandatory requirement for EIA. EIA is the
procedure for carrying out a study about the potential environmental impacts of the
proposed development and for using the results of the study to make a decision about
whether or not the proposed development should be granted planning permission.
In Kenya, it is provided for under Part IV of EMCA which states that
notwithstanding any approval, permit or licence granted under this or other law in
force in Kenya before financing, commencing, proceeding with, carrying out, executing
or conducting any undertaking which is listed in schedule 2 of the Act, the project
proponent shall apply for EIA licence.
There are four things to note:
1. This requirement is additional to any other licences or permits that may have been
obtained already e.g. planning permission, business licence, water pollution discharge
2. The responsibility to obtain to apply for the EIA licence is on the project proponent
(person proposing to finance, carry out etc the project)
3. The requirement with respect to projects so that the EIA we have is a project based
environmental impact assessment.
This means that the requirement applies at the point when the project has been
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Project Development Cycle
Stage 1: Policy (idea/objective) to introduce free primary education
Stage 2: Develop a plan or a programme (strategic plan) it is within this plan that one
develops how one will achieve the idea of introducing free primary education.
Stage 3: Project, location specific
It is the project that is subjected to EIA
According to EMCA, one does not carry out an EIA on the policy nor the plan but on
the project only. Project based EIA suffers from fundamental weakness in its ability to
influence the outcome of the application. EIA is only carried out at the project level,
reason being the methodology for carrying out EIA at earlier stages of decision making
is not yet developed.
4. Provided for in the Act. The activities to be subjected to an EIA are defined in schedule
2 of the Act and has the following list of activities;
a) an activity out of character with its surroundings
b) any structure of a scale not in keeping with its surroundings
c) major changes in land use
d) other activities involving urban development, transport, water resources, mining,
forestry, agriculture, manufacturing, waste disposal, nature conservation including the
creation of national parks, nuclear reactors, major developments in bio-technology
including the introduction of genetically modified organisms.
All activities in these areas require an EIA. What is not clear is whether every single
activity in that list requires an EIA. The Act does not distinguish activities on a small
scale and activities on a large-scale.
It is therefore, not possible to determine in advance the range of activities and the scope
of activities that must be subjected to an EIA. The way in which other countries have
dealt with this is by imposing some thresholds which is a quantitative limit. It is an
assignment of a certain limit which determines the point at which the need for an EIA
comes in e.g. a threshold could say a housing estate involving construction of 20 houses
and more will require an EIA. 19 houses and less do not require EIA therefore people
will be informed on what development requires an EIA.
The requirement for an EIA is defined in Part VI in EMCA. The application for an EIA
licence is made to NEMA. At the moment the applications are made to the headquarters
of NEMA in Nairobi regardless of where one is because NEMA has not established
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Application commences on the submission of the project brief report. It is a brief
description of the project with an indication of the likely significant environmental
impacts e.g. in a housing estate, significant environmental impact is how they will deal
with the waste.
NEMA will decide whether a full EIA study is required. If it decides that a full
EIA study is required, the developer shall engage a team of consultants known as
Environmental Impact Assessors. These consultants are paid for by the developer, but the
developer is required to select them from a list of experts which is maintained by
These experts carry out the study and submit a report to NEMA. Once NEMA
receives the report, its required to advertise the application for the licence in the gazette
and in newspapers. NEMA is to provide on indication as to where you can get the
report if you wish to study it and the advert shall invite comments.
Additionally, NEMA may set up a committee of experts known as a technical
advisory committee to advise it on the report. The reason is because NEMA does not have
all experts it needs in house e.g. it may need experts in nuclear activity, which it may
not have experts.
On the basis of the report, the recommendations of the T.A. (and any comments
received from the public, NEMA is required to give a decision either granting the
licence or refusing the application for the licence.)
The Act requires NEMA’s decision to be given within a period of 90 days (on
application). NEMA has interpreted this as 90 days from the time the EIA study report
is submitted to it. In granting the licence, NEMA may impose conditions dealing with
how the negative impacts that have been identified will be mitigated. This is often
contained in an environmental mitigation plan. A EMP demonstrates how the
developer intends to mitigate the impacts that the study has presented and this
becomes a condition for the licence.
The government is not exempt from the EIA. It should apply for an EIA licence
but in practice it is not the case.
Under section 62, authorities may require the project proponent to carry out a
further study if it is necessary to ensure the report is as accurate as possible. Also, a
fresh EIA report may be required where there is a substantial change or modification in
the project or in the manner it is being carried where the project causes an
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environmental threat that could not be foreseen initially of if it is established that
information given by proponent was false inaccurate or intended to mislead.
The authority may revoke, withdraw or suspend licence if the project proponent
does not comply with conditions. There is a fee for the licence i.e. it is set at 0.1% of the
Additionally, section 28, provides:
The authority may require that persons engaged in activities likely to have a significant adverse
effect on the environment shall deposit bonds with the authority which may be confiscated if the
person breaches conditions of the licence.
Section 25 establishes the National Environment Restoration Fund (NERF) consisting
(a) A proportion of fees or deposit bonds which have been paid to the authorities.
(b) Other sums/funds levied on project proponents as a contribution towards the
NERF is a supplementary insurance for the mitigation of environmental degradation
where the perpetuator has not been identified or where there are exceptional
circumstances that the authority is required to intervene to mitigate environmental
degradation e.g. where a perpetrator is identified but is unable to pay or where no one
single perpetrator can be pinpointed as in pollution of Nairobi river. The authority can
resort to the NERF
Part 7: provision for environmental monitoring and auditing. The practice of auditing is
applied to environmental degradation. Auditing is a verification of the activities of a
company to ensure it complies to the licence.
An environmental inspector may enter any land/premises to determine how far the
activities the activities carried out on land/premises or land conform to the EIA report.
Owner of the premises should keep records and submit them to the authority on an
annual basis describing how far the operation of the project conforms with the EIA
report. Where there are matters that were not contemplated in the report, the project t
proponent shall take measures to mitigate those matters as well.
On June 13
, 2003, the authority gazetted rules i.e. EIA and Audit Regulations. They
‘all projects commenced after 13
June, 2003 shall require an EIA licence and all projects which
were ongoing as on 13
June, 2003 shall require an Environmental Audit. In June 2004, notice
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put up by authority to require all industries to submit an audit by December 2004. Estimated
that about 5000 operators submitted reports.
All applications and licences are handled in Nairobi, shortcoming, backlog.
MANAGEMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
Dealt with in the Water Act 2002 this replaced the Water Act cap 372 (repealed)
Kenya’s water law is founded in common law provision i.e. under common law, the
land owner is presumed to own everything on the land i.e. from the sky to don the
center of the earth. Except that statute has qualified the rights of an owner on land e.g.
under the Mining Act, Aviation Act
The common law holds the principle that running water, air and light are the things
whose property rights belong to no one person but belong to the use of all mankind.
See: Higgins v Inge 131 ER 263
Landowners have no property in air, water and light, he only has the ‚right of use
which is incidental to the land ownership. These come naturally with the land.
A landowner whose land adjoins (or abats) a watercourse is known as a riparian owner.
A riparian owner has a natural right to running water. See: Stockpost Waterworks
Corporation v Potter 159 ER 545. This is the right to use the running water as of right.
(W/o requiring permission)
A non-riparian owner can only exercise the right to running water if he has an agent
with the riparian owner, allowing him access over the riparian owner’s land without
such an agreement, the NRO would be committing a trespass were he to cross over the
riparian owner’s land to gain access, therefore the key thing regarding water is access.
Such an agreement is called an easement (right of way or right to cross over another’s
Since the right to riparian water is shared by all riparian owner’s, its use must be
reasonable. No one owner will use the water in a way that prejudices the use of other
owners. See: Embry v Owens i.e. use of water must be reasonable
Under common law each riparian owner has a right of action against unreasonable and
prejudicial use by other riparian owners.
The scope of reasonable use consists of three rights:
(a) Right of access and navigation
(b) Right to the Natural Quantity of water in the watercourse
(c) Right to the Natural Quality of water in the watercourse
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The above are called Riparian rights.
A tidal river is one which is affected by the rise and fall of the sea i.e. it flows into the
sea. River water is fresh while sea water is salty, the portion affected by the sea at the
entry point consists of both and is called the tidal part.
Under common law the bed of the tidal river and the bed of the sea up to the territorial
(sea) waters is owned by the sovereign. The bed of the rest of the watercourse which is
non-tidal is owned by land owners on both sides of the water up to the median (middle)
line of the river. However, the Agriculture Act states that the landowner may not
cultivate or graze cattle up to a distance of two meters from edge of the watercourse.
Where the breath of the watercourse exceeds two meters, the landowner may not
cultivate up to a distance of thirty meters from the river. This portion is called the
riparian reserve (sides of a watercourse that should not be used for cultivation).
Within urban areas, the same restrictions on the use of the riparian reserves are
imposed by LA by-laws. Note: the use of the bed of the watercourse is restricted.
The right to navigate tidal river belongs to all members of the public because ownership
of the bed belongs to the state. But only a riparian owner has a right of access to use his
land which allows him to embark and disembark on his land. See: Lyon v Fishmongers
Co. (1876) 1 App. Case
The riparian owner’s right to quantity enables him to abstract(take out), obstruct, divert
or impound (dam) the water. The water which is abstracted may be used for ordinary
domestic purposes such as drinking and other culinary purposes and for
extraordinary/secondary purposes e.g. irrigation. It may also be used for foreign
purposes i.e. use of water on non-riparian land.
When a riparian owner uses water for ordinary purposes there is no restriction as to the
quantity he abstracts, even if he uses all of the water. See: Londonderry v Lough
Smiley Railways Co. 1904 AC 301
Significance, upstream riparian owners have a prior right to use of water.
In USA they have a principle of prior appropriation i.e. the first person to get to the
water can use it all. Not the same as the Kenyan principle regarding the prior right of
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Where the Riparian owner uses the water for secondary purposes, the use is restricted
in so far as it is subject to the use of other Riparian owner’s. See: Swindon Waterworks
v Wilks & Berks Canal Navigation Co. 1875 7LR
The moment the use of water for secondary purposes affects the rights of lower
Riparian owner’s adversely, such use becomes unreasonable.
Under common law, the use of water for foreign purposes is considered to be
automatically unreasonable. The right to use is attached to the riparian land e.g. you
cannot take it to others.
The Riparian owner’s right to quality entitles him to the flow of water on his land in its
natural state and purity, undeteriorated by obnoxious matter discharged on it by others.
See: Jones Landwrist v District Council 1911 Ch.Div 393
NB: The common law does not restrict the use of underground water
There’s no property in water but the use of water is available to all.
The Water Act 2002 replaced the Water Act Cap 372 (repealed) and came into effect in
March 2003. Section 3 vests every water resource in the State. Water resource means any
lake, pond, swamp, marsh, stream, waterfalls, estuary, acquifer (underground layer of
water), artesian basin (underground lake), or other body of flowing or standing water
whether below or above the ground.
The right to use water from any water resource vests in the Minister and under section
6, no conveyance, lease or other instrument shall be effectual to convey, device, transfer,
or vest in any person any property, right or interest or privilege in respect of any water
resource except as provided for under this Act.
Note: Under common law, the right to use water is incidental to ownership of land
(section 6 seems to contradict this common law notion)
Under section 25, the permit is required for the use of water from any water resource,
for the drainage of any swamp or any land, for the discharge of a pollutant (something
causing pollution) into a water resource.
Use in relation to water resources means the obstruction, abstraction or diversion of the
water, alternatively the discharge of materials or substances into the water. All this
requires a permit. The circumstances where a permit is not required are:
1) For the abstraction or use of water without the employment of works from or in any
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2) For domestic purposes;
3) By any person having lawful access to the water
What is ‘works’? Act says it is any structure, apparatus, device or thing for carrying,
conducting, providing or utilizing water but does not include hand utensils. Hand
utensils are pots, buckets etc as opposed to e.g. a pump.
With respect to underground water, the law says that where none of the works
necessary for the development of the underground water are situated within 100 meters
of any body of surface water or within a ground water conservation area, then a permit
is not necessary i.e. works not used, outside 100 meters, outside GCA(Groundwater
conservation area) – no permit.
GCA is defined in section 44 of the Act as an area where special measures are necessary
for the conservation of ground water. GCA is declared to be GCA by the Water
Resources Management Authority (WRMA).
A permit is not required for storage of water in, or the obstruction of water from a dam
which is constructed in any channel or depression which does not constitute a water
course. Water course means any natural channel/depression in which water flows
regularly or intermittently (every now and then), i.e. if you have a natural channel in
which water flows, even if you find it dry, it still is a water course. If you dry your own
drain at home to encourage water to flow, you require no permit. You shouldn’t
connect it to the natural channel. In every other case, a permit is required for the use of
To use water without a permit is an offence punishable with imprisonment of upto 12
months and a fine of Kshs 100,000. An application for permit is made to the authority
known as WRMA established under section 7 of the Act. The Act is required to
advertise the application to allow people opposed to the grant of the application the
opportunity to object.
In considering the application, the Act shall consider the following:
1) The existing lawful uses of the water
2) Efficient and beneficial use of water in the public interest
3) The likely effect of the proposed water use on the water resource and the other water
4) The class and resource quality objective of the water resource
5) The strategic importance of the proposed water use
6) The quality of water in the water resource
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7) The probable duration of the activity for which the water use is to be authorized
Under section 12, the Act is required to classify water resources: e.g. International water
bodies like Lake Victoria; of strategic importance like Tana River for H.E.P. After that, it
is also required to assign each class resource quality objective i.e. the level to be
achieved and maintained with respect to each water resources. The minister is required
to specify for each water resource, a reserve.
The reserve means the quantity and quality of water required to satisfy basic human
needs of all people who are or who may be supplied from the water resource, and to
protect aquatic eco-systems (habited) i.e. the life forms which live in water. (This
reserve is the minimum standard)
In considering applications for permits, the use of water for domestic purposes shall
take precedence over the use for any other purposes.
In the event of a drought, the authority may vary the permit in order to give priority to
domestic use. Permits run with the land and the particular portion of the land to which
the permit is appurtenant (fixed or refers to) must be specified. Hence in reality it is not
possible to have permit in gross.
There are arguments that a permit should not be attached to land as this is unfair for
landless people. For a person with land but no access to water he can only acquire a
permit but must obtain an easement. The permit should be used on the land you
applied under. Permits may be varied because there’s a shortage of water for domestic
purposes, deterioration of quality of water or inequity in use.
However, it cannot be varied without notice to permit holder who should be given an
opportunity to show cause why it should not be varied. A permit may be cancelled but
the holder must be given an opportunity to show cause why it should not be cancelled.
The Act is required to establish a register of permits which is a public document and
any person may examine it.
Section 7 establishes the WRMA whose role is to receive and determine applications for
permits and to monitor and enforce the conditions for the permit. The Act is required to
divide the country into catchment areas/basin. A catchment area is where water collects
i.e. from which rain water flows into a water course. The Act ahs created certain
- Lake Victoria North
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- Lake Victoria South
- Rift Valley
- Athi River Catchment Area
- Tan River Catchment Area
- Ewaso Nyiro Catchment Area
- Coast Catchment Area
In each catchment area, the authority is required to establish a regional office.
The Act is required to establish a catchment area management strategy which will
describe the water allocation plans for that catchment and the arrangement for
development and conservation of water for that catchment.
At national level, the minister is required to establish the natural water resource
management strategy. The CA management strategy is also required to establish ways
of enabling communities participate in managing water resources within the CA. In
particular the strategy shall encourage the establishment of water resource users
associations. These are fora for the cooperative management of water resources and
conflict resolution. These associations involve the community.
For urban areas, tap water is relied on. Piped water is dealt with under water services or
water supply. Water surfaces relate to water which is provided for purposes of
consumption. Water Act 2002 is titled Water Supply and Sewerage.
Essentially, water services is provided by persons appointed by the minister. Under s.49
of the Act, the minister is required to develop a National Water Services Strategy. The
(d) institute arrangements to ensure at all times there is in every area of Kenya a person
capable of providing water supply.
(e) design a program to bring about the progressive extension of sewerage to every centre
of population in Kenya
Sewerage system is a piped network for the disposal of used water. Essentially, from a
house or premises, the water drains down the plumbing into the system of pipes called
the sewerage. The used water is the sewer. It goes into a treatment plant and through
the action of bacteria, the sewer is broken down until only water is left. This is directed
back to the river and reused. There are two systems:
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the water treatment palnt where the water is tapped from the river (through the
use of chlorine) and;
the sewerage treatment plant for the treatment of sewer and direction of water
back to the river
We have Dandora Works and a Treatment Plant in Gigiri.
Under s.51, the Minister is required to establish a Water Services Board responsible for
the efficient provision of water services.
Six boards have been established in the country. The boards are established along the
catchment areas e.g. Rift Valley WSB, Lake Victoria North WSB etc. The Boards are
agencies for providing water services.
This is a marked departure from the situation prior to 2002 as there was no body in law
responsible for providing water services.
Water services means the supply of water and the provision of sewerage. The purpose
of the board is to then supply the water and handle sewerage. Under s.55 of the Act, the
board is required to identify a person known as a water services provider to provide
water services as the Board’s agent.
The water services provider is a company, NGO or a person which provides water
services in an agreement with the board.
The board itself is not allowed to provide water services directly to consumers unless it
is impossible to identify water service providers in that area.
W.S. Regulatory Board > W.S. Board > W.S. Provider > Consumer
The design: There is the legal responsibility that there must be someone in every area
responsible for providing water services. In law, you cannot impose a responsibility like
that on bodies not public bodies and hence the reason why W.S.B. is not allowed to
carry out the services of W.S. directly to consumers.
At the same time, the Act recognized that if you give jobs to public bodies the work
would be shoddy and hence ineffective.
Under s.53 the board is prohibited from delivering water services directly, the board
must engage the water services provider to provide the water on its behalf.
Under s.56, no person shall provide water services to more than 20 households or
supply more than 25,000 liters a day for domestic purposes without a licence. The
licence is applied for to the Water Services Regulating Board (WSRB) established under
s.46 of the Act. Its object is to licence suppliers of water and to regulate service.
Page 23 of 30
In order to obtain a licence to supply water services, the applicant must show technical
and financial capability to supply water services. The water services provider is allowed
to charge for the water services provided and in charging for the services, the provider
may include a levy. Sewerage service levy is supposed to cover a reasonable part of the
cost of disposing the water supplied.
Default by the Board
Supposing the board defaults by for instance, failing to identify a provider, or one who
has no capacity, squandering of money.
The Act gives the minister reserve powers to provide water services in case of default
by the board. The minister does not have the technical capacity to provide water
services. Under s.22, provision is made for a parastatals known as national water
conservation and pipeline cooperation(NWCPC).
1. They provide water services in case of default by the water services board
2. They are responsible for state schemes – schemes which are funded by the state
for provision of bulk water supply or alternatively for water conservation
purposes. Bulk water supply is basically the big dams whose water is gathered in
bulk for supply e.g. Ndakaini dam. The corporation gathers the water in dams
and supplies it. The corporation is also involved in conservancy e.g. from floods.
The Management of Effluent
It is the waste that is discharged from premises. Some effluent is sewage (domestic) but
there is also industrial effluent/trade effuent. S.76 states no person shall discharge any
trade effluent from any trade premises into the sewers of a licencee without the consent
of the licencee (but if the effluent is domestic, no licence is required).
An application for the consent shall state the nature and the composition of the trade
effluent (H2SO4, Paper etc)
The maximum quantity of the effluent proposed to be discharged on any one day. The
highest rate at which it is proposed to discharge the effluent. The licencee may give his
consent subject to conditions including a condition that there will be a charge for the
discharge of the effluent. If the licencee declines to give consent there is an appeal to the
Water Appeal Board.
Page 24 of 30
It is cleanliness. An aspect of sanitation is the sewerage system – it is the system for
disposal of used water. The sewerage system depends on a piped network. This raises
1. How do you dispose of non-liquid items through pipes?
2. What happens where there are no sewerage systems?
The country with the highest network of piped sewerages is UK with a rate of about
99% of the population. In Kenya, even in Nairobi, the majority of the population does
not have a piped system.
Liquid waste is managed by:
i) The sewerage system
ii) Septic tanks
The key issue with regard to latrines is that it is a system which can adequately manage
liquid waste in an area with low density. The volume can easily be disposed off by
bacteria. When you are in high density area and you use the same it becomes dangerous
because they are not disposed off as quickly.
The conservancy is a modified form of a latrine – it is constructed so that there is no
contact between the ground and the liquid waste. Periodically, exhausters (tankers)
come and suck up the waste. They can be useful in high density areas.
The septic tank is also a hole in the ground designed to allow the liquid degradation
and therefore it depends on having sufficient ground areas for the liquid waste to
degrade (needs big areas)
These are systems of sanitation for solid waste.
Sanitation is regulated under the Public Health Act (Cap 242), Local Government Act
Page 25 of 30
The Public Health Act makes it the duty of all the local authorities to provide a system
of sanitation within its area and to require owners of premises to provide sanitary
services within those premises
The local authority is supposed to regulate that for owners of premises through public
health officers – officers of the ministry of health who are based within the local
In rural areas public health officers are based at the districts. His job is to regulate the
sanitary arrangements of sanitary services within the area e.g. inspect latrines, septic
The local authority itself is also a provider of sanitary services for public use e.g. it is
their job to provide public toilets.
The Local Government Act Cap 245 makes provisions for the kind of facilities that must
be provided. Under it, some by-laws known as the building code have been adopted by
the Act. It provides:
i) Within urban areas, latrines are prohibited except during the course of the construction
of a building which are temporary and for the duration of construction.
If one intends to use conservancies, there must be within that area, provision for
exhauster service. The council is required to run an exhauster service for which it
charges. It is also required to licence the exhauster appropriately.
If you intend to rely on the septic tank, the tank must be constructed by registered
plumbers. The land area must not be less than half an acre and the septic tank must not
be built within black cotton soil. The council must approve the soil within which the
septic tank is in.
If one is planning to dispose of the waste using a sewerage system, the dimensions of
the pipe are prescribed in the building code and the plumbing works must be
undertaken by a registered plumber.
The council regulations provide specifications for disposal of liquid waste which are
related to the number of the occupants of the house. Additionally, there must be drains
provided for draining liquids from other wet areas like kitchen and shower and roof.
That drainage system must be channeled away from these sanitary services.
THE MANAGEMENT OF SOLID WASTE
Page 26 of 30
Waste is an item that does not have utility value to the holder of the item. This is
because it may be residue, used material, or has simply lost its utility.
An item may not have value to one person but it may have value to another person. For
example, mitumba clothes have no value to one person but value to someone else.
Because waste has no value to the holder, he has the temptation to dispose of it at least
cost to himself. A holder of an item typically will dispose of it onto the environment
which presents the available that does not saddle the burden with any costs.
In economics, the term used is externalities. It means you externalize a problem, u
make your problem somebody else’s problem.
Its necessary therefore to put in place mechanisms for ensuring proper waste disposal
methods are adopted. Those mechanisms force the holder to internalize the problem.
There are certain categories of solid waste that have features that make them
Solid waste management is carried out at three stages:
ii) Transport and
This is the waste management cycle.
At generation, the waste management techniques are reduction, reuse and recycle. This
is the stage at which waste is created. The principle of waste management is to reduce
the quantity and quantity that is created.
To force people to create less waste, techniques have been developed and the most
famous reduction technique is called the take-back requirement for packaging.
(a) Take-back requirement
It is the requirement that the producer of packaging is required to take back the
packaging after it has been used. The take-back requirement had one dramatic effect i.e.
producers of packaging stopped producing packaging (how do you take back the
In Europe, they began a system of levying and so they stopped packaging.
Page 27 of 30
This refers to the use of the same material once again and this means that it is not
placed into the waste management cycle. The best example is a bottle used for beverage
and this is encouraged by the ‘deposit and return policy’.
It refers to using item in a different form. The best example is wood which can be used
as timber, then writing paper and then toilet paper and so on.
All these methods reduce waste placed in the waste management cycle.
In the Transport category, the solid waste is separated into its component parts.
Separation is the first phase therefore.
The second phase is tracing i.e. waste should be traced from origin to destination. There
should be a record of who has taken waste and who has received it so as to prevent fly-
tipping – the practice whereby waste transporters dump the waste at some location by
the roadside or in a bush.
In the Disposal phase, waste is then removed from the cycle by being permanently
deposited at some site. There are two methods of waste disposal:-
a) Land filling
Landfilling is the practice of depositing waste in a hole in the ground. Incineration is the
practice of burning waste at high temperatures. Land-filling is the most common way of
disposing waste usually because it is cheap. Landfilling results in two by-products:
- Methane gas
Leachate is a liquid effluent that comes out of decomposing waste. It is highly polluting
to ground water. In order to deal with the risk of leachate polluting ground water, the
bottom of the landfill should first be covered by a layer of polythene. It will then be
pumped out occasionally and treated.
Methane is gas generated by the waste because it is decomposing at low temperatures.
If it was at high temperatures it would be carbon dioxide. Methane is highly polluting
to the atmosphere and is easily combustible. It should be vented out through a pipe.
The other problem with landfill is smell and unsightliness. To deal with them, then the
waste should be covered by a layer of soil, everyday after disposal. If this is not done
then one ends up with a very messy dumpsite.
Page 28 of 30
Incineration is an expensive method because it involves burning waste at high
temperatures and is a requirement only in certain dangerous categories. For example,
clinical waste – This is waste that has been generated from hospital.
In Kenya, waste management is provided for in a number of statutes, most important is
the Public Health Act (CAP 242), The Local Government Act (CAP 265) and a few
S 16 of PHA imposes a duty on every Local authority to take all local necessary and
reasonably practical measures for maintaining its area at all times in a clean and
sanitary condition and for preventing the occurrence therein of any nuisance or of any
condition liable to be injurious or dangerous to health.
S 118 of PHA defines nuisances including ‘any street, road, garbage receptacle, dustbin,
refuse pit or manure heap which is so far off or in such a state as in the opinion of the
medical officer of health to be offensive or injurious or dangerous to health. Any
accumulation of stones, timber or other material which is likely to harbour rats or other
vermin or any area of land which is kept or permitted to remain in such a state as to be
offensive or liable to cause any infectious, communicable or preventable disease or
injury or danger to health.
The Act provides a procedure for abetting nuisance which is found in part IX fo the Act.
Nuisance Abetment Steps
1. The Local authority shall serve a notice on the author of the nuisance to remove
2. If the author of the nuisance cannot be found it shall be served on the occupier or
the owner of the premises
3. It shall specify the things to be done and the period within which they must be
4. If the person responsible fails to comply with the notice the Medical Officer of
Health (MOH) shall make a complaint before a magistrate and the magistrate
shall issue a summons and the summons shall require a person to appear before
a court. If the court is satisfied that a nuisance exists, it shall require the author to
5. The court may also impose a fine for everyday on which the nuisance continues.
Page 29 of 30
6. If the person still does not comply, then the local authority may itself go in and
remove the nuisance and recover its costs from the person involved. This may
require demolition of the building.
There are two aspects of this procedure:
-The role of the local authority to deal with nuisance caused by others
-At the same time, the act imposes a duty on the local authority to keep its area clean.
In order to comply with the statutory duty in S 116 of PHA, S 160 of the LGA gives the
Local authority power to establish and maintain sanitary services for the removal and
destruction of otherwise dealing with all kinds of refuse and to compel the use of
services by persons to whom the service is available.
Under S 201, Local authorities have been given power to make by-laws and have then
made by-laws. For example, NCC has made the following by-laws:
i) Local government adoptive by-laws building order of 1968 – The Building Code which
gives the local authority power to establish standards including that you must have
requirement that one must have provision for garbage collecting services e.g. a chute for
a storeyed building.
ii) The City of Nairobi General Nuisance By-laws legal Notice No.275 of 1961. This
prohibits the depositing of debris on the streets and it makes it an offence for any
person to place or deposit any leaves, paper, sawdust or other rubbish so as to create
litter or to throw down or leave any orange peel, banana skin or other substance likely
to cause a person to fall down.
iii) The City of Nairobi Conservancy By-Laws Legal Notice No.659 of 1961. This empowers
the local authority to provide to occupiers of premises what are called
receptacles(dustbins) and requires that all refuse from that premise be placed in that
receptacle for collection by the councils refuse collection service. The by-laws impose a
charge for the hire of the receptacle and for the service of emptying the receptacle
iv) The City of Nairobi Hawkers By-Laws Legal Notice No.748 of 1963.
v) The City of Nairobi Restaurants, Eating Houses and Snackbar By-laws Legal Notice No
674 of 1961
vi) The City of Nairobi Slaughterhouses By-Laws Legal Notice No. 325 of 1966
vii) The City of Nairobi Hairdressers and Barbers By-Laws Legal Notice No 146 of 1970
viii) The City of Nairobi Foodshops and Stores Legal Notice No. 384 of 1956
All these by-laws empower the council to issue a licence for the activity that is
mentioned. In considering whether to give the licence, the council has to take into
account whether the premises to which the licence applies have made provision for
Page 30 of 30
sanitation. Do they have a restroom, toilet etc., and the licence may be cancelled if the
premises are in such a condition as to be dangerous to health or liable to favour the
spread of disease.
The Scrap Metal Act Cap 503
The Act prohibits dealing in scrap metal without a dealer’s licence and issuing authority
for the dealers licence is the police. This is because the bulk of scrap metal is from used
cars. The statute requires that the dealer get a licence.
It prohibits a dealer from dealing in or storing any scrap metal elsewhere than at the
premises specified in the licence.
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