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The Role of NEMA in Pollution Control in Kenya



By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), Winner of Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021, ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and CIArb (Kenya) Lifetime Achievement Award 2021.*

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was established as the principal instrument of government charged with the implementation of all policies relating to the environment, and to exercise general supervision and coordination over all matters relating to the environment. In consultation with the lead agencies, NEMA is empowered to develop regulations, prescribe measures and standards and, issue guidelines for the management and conservation of natural resources and the environment. The Act provides for environmental protection through; Environmental impact assessment; Environmental audit and monitoring; and Environmental restoration orders, conservation orders, and easements. Notably, NEMA can delegate its functions under EMCA to any lead agency, being the oversight authority, and where it carries out a delegated duty, it can recover costs from the relevant body for any of such functions.

Water pollution Control

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has made considerable attempts at controlling water pollution in the country. However, this may be considered to be a reactive measure which was only taken after media houses’ expose on the extent of pollution that is taking place in the country, especially perpetrated by the corporate bodies. This begs the question where NEMA was and whether the perquisite measures during the licensing of these companies were taken. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environment and Social Assessment (SESA) assessments as required by the law were supposed to address this problem; follow up measures by NEMA to ensure that there is compliance were evidently missing. This has resulted in various companies dropping their guard and engaging in wanton destruction of water bodies through uncontrolled and untreated discharge of pollutants into the water bodies. NEMA Director General has been on record stating that some of the closed down companies do not have efficient waste water treatment plants. This is worrying as it may mean that there are many more out there doing the same and its only that they have not been discovered.

The Water Quality Regulations 2006 apply to drinking water, water used for industrial purposes, water used for agricultural purposes, water used for recreational purposes, water used for fisheries and wildlife, and water used for any other purposes. The Regulations not only obligate every person to refrain from any act which directly or indirectly causes, or may cause immediate or subsequent water pollution, but also seek to regulate through licensing the various uses and interaction with water. They also set standards by which every user of water and water bodies must observe. The Water Act 2016 also carries provisions that seek to curb contamination and pollution of water sources and establishes institutions that should enforce the Act. Despite the enactment of this Act, there are still many cases of pollution of water bodies due to lack of enforcement of the prescribed standards and little has changed if at all, in the quality of water across the country as far as water hygiene is concerned.

Land pollution Control

Land pollution and degradation is closely related to water pollution as this can also result in water pollution, hence the need to tackle the problem. Land degradation in Kenya is often attributed to both natural and human factors which include biophysical (natural) factors related to climatic conditions and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, and catchment factors such as steep slopes and highly erodible soils. However, human activities carry the greatest share of blame, and these include unsustainable land management practices (anthropogenic) factors such as destruction of natural vegetation, over-cultivation, overgrazing, poor land husbandry and excessive forest conversion.

Land degradation may include: biological/Vegetation degradation (loss of biodiversity/vegetation); Soil erosion by water; Wind erosion; Water resources degradation; Chemical degradation; and physical degradation. Considering that the above factors fall under different sectors, land pollution is governed by various policies and laws that range from agricultural laws, forestry laws, climate change laws and water laws among others.  Article 60 of the Constitution requires that in Kenya land should be held, used and managed in a manner that is equitable, efficient, productive and sustainable, and in accordance with the principles of sustainable and productive management of land resources; and sound conservation and protection of ecologically sensitive areas, among others.

The Constitution also obligates the State to: ensure sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources, and ensure the equitable sharing of the accruing benefits; work to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least ten per cent of the land area of Kenya; encourage public participation in the management, protection and conservation of the environment; protect genetic resources and biological diversity; establish systems of environmental impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment; and eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment. It also requires every person to cooperate with State organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources. The Kenya Vision 2030 also commits the country to mitigate unintended adverse land degradation. The various policies and laws thus seek to curb or mitigate the above forms of land pollution/degradation. However, the situation on the ground paints a grim picture and serves as an indication that little has been achieved despite the existence of these legal instruments.

Noise pollution Control

The Environmental Management and Coordination (Noise and Excessive Vibration Pollution) (Control) Regulation, 2009 defines “noise” to mean any undesirable sound that is intrinsically objectionable or that may cause adverse effects on human health or the environment. These Regulations prohibit any person from making or causing to be made any loud, unreasonable, unnecessary or unusual noise which annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health or safety of others and the environment. However, there are some exemptions to these prohibitions.

In the case of Pastor James Jessie Gitahi and 202 others vs Attorney General, the court recognized one of the components of a clean and healthy environment to be the prevention of noise and vibration pollution. The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) inspectors have made attempts at noise pollution control in the country. Despite the Regulations, noise pollution is however still a major problem in the country because of lack of enforcement of the Regulations and possibly the public’s ignorance on the levels of noise that may be considered as air pollution.

Air pollution Control

The Air Quality Regulations 2014 seek to provide for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution to ensure clean and healthy ambient air. They also seek to ensure that there is establishment of emission standards for various sources such as mobile sources (e.g. motor vehicles) and stationary sources (e.g. industries) as outlined in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999. As already pointed, despite the existence of these Regulations, there has been massive pollution of air especially around major towns due to industrial development and unsustainable mode of transport, mainly public service vehicles (matatus) and other unroadworthy vehicles.

Some authors have rightly pointed out that developing countries such as Kenya have limited air quality management systems due to inadequate legislation and lack of political will, among other challenges. In addition, maintaining a balance between economic development and sustainable environment is usually a challenge; there are no investments in pollution prevention technologies. More attention goes to the short-term benefits from increased production and job creation where the lack of air quality management capability translates into lack of air pollution data, hence the false belief that there is no problem. Under EMCA, projects and activities that are likely to cause air pollution are also to be subjected to Environmental Impact Assessment.

*This article is an extract from the Article “Safeguarding the Environment through Effective Pollution Control in Kenya” by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya). Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022.


Muigua, K., “Safeguarding the Environment through Effective Pollution Control in Kenya,” Available at: ment-through-Effective-Pollution-Control-in-Kenya-Kariuki-Muigua-28th-SEPT-2019.pdf (accessed 5 May 2022).

News & Analysis

Why is THE LAWYER AFRICA Listing Top Law Firms and Top Lawyers?




The Litigation Hall of Fame | Kenya in 2023 (The Most Distinguished 50 Litigation Lawyers in Kenya).

We live in the age of information overload where too much information (TMI) is increasingly making it difficult to find actionable legal data about a good law firm or lawyer. At the same time, legal services are increasingly going digital and finding your next lawyer is a now a matter of a few clicks. Many existing, new and potential clients are interested to know more about the lawyer handling or likely to handle their next case or transaction as every HR Manager seeks to know how their In-house Lawyer or next hire compares to peers.

The biggest dilemma especially for commercial consumers of legal services  is where to begin the journey in finding the law firm or the lawyer to meet their immediate legal need created by their new venture,  business, transaction or dispute. In-house counsel are also called upon to justify opting for one lawyer or law firm or over the other.  Hence, the rise in the popularity of international law directories rankings as an attempt to fill the yawning gap by listing a few dozen lawyers and law firms in esoteric categories that often don’t align with the legal needs of the domestic legal market.

But ranking two dozen elite lawyers or big law firms in a big jurisdiction like Kenya there are over 20,000 lawyers is merely a drop in the ocean. The result is the same candidates are listed year after year and an In-house Legal Team looking to infuse new blood in their external counsel panel is left very little discretion. At best, International legal ranking only succeed to tilt the scales in favour of few big firms and their lawyers and to aid the choice of International Legal buyers who are constrained for time in picking their External Counsel in jurisdictions where they cannot find referrals.

The questions that beg are: What about the other top law firms and lawyers who are equally good if not better but don’t have the time to fill the technical paperwork that comes with International Legal Directories rankings? What about Domestic Legal Buyers who simply want to justify why they prefer a lawyer or law firm not listed in the International Directory? Can increasing the number of listed lawyers or law firms from less 0.1% of the profession (as captured by International Law Directories) to at least 1% of the profession or higher for those specializing in the practice area help in enhancing access to justice in Africa? Can ranking law firms by number of fee earners help in the quest for a more accurate bird’s eye view of a country’s legal landscape?

At THE LAWYER AFRICA, we have set out to list Top Law Firms and Top Lawyers in the various practice areas in a way that democratizes law rankings and listings and brings this essential value add within reach of most lawyers and every law firms doing top legal work. We don’t promise to list all the top lawyers or law firms, but we commit to make sure every lawyer or law firm we list is at the top of the game in the listed practice area. We aim to help both little known and already known law firms and lawyers doing top legal work in their area of specialization get discovered by discerning clients and possibly get more opportunities to do great work.

THE LAWYER AFRICA is looking to list up to Top 200 Law Firms in every African Jurisdiction based on their reputation and number of fee earners headcount with a goal of listing at least Africa’s Top 1,000 Law Firms which are leaders in their respective countries. We also seek to list up to Top 1,000 Lawyers in every country in Africa in at least five main practice areas, namely, Litigation, Commercial Law, Property law, In-house and Private Sector or more.

THE LAWYER AFRICA categorizes law firms in large jurisdictions as Top 5, Top 10, Top 20, Top 50 and Top 100 (and allow tying where number of counsel is equal). The Top Lawyers are listed in three categories, namely, Hall of Fame (the Distinguished Top 50 or 75 Practitioners in a Practice Area), Top 100 (the Leading Top 100 Practitioners in a Practice Area) and Up-and-Coming (the promising Top 50 or 75 Practitioners in a Practice Area).  The placing of a listings depends on a number of key factors including the number of key matters or transactions handled, years in practice and experience, size of team working under a counsel, reputation and opinion of peers (where available) as established by THE LAWYER AFRICA.

THE LAWYER AFRICA prefers to list a counsel in only one listing, as far as possible. The Team tries (as far as possible) not to contact listed law firms or lawyers before the listing is finalized in the first. However, a listed law firm or lawyer may be contacted at the pre-launch stage of a list for purposes of selling merchandise relating to the launch but such engagement will not affect the listing. In case of future listings, it is expected that interested lawyers or law firms who feel they were previously left out of the list may to provide information for consideration to determine if they qualify for the next listing but that will not guarantee any listing.

THE LAWYER AFRICA undertakes not to charge for listing any lawyer or law firm. However, upon publication of a listing, as part of recovering the sunk costs we incur in the research and publication of the listings, we shall charge a token for printing and shipping of Quality A3 Certificate for listed Law Firms and/or A4 Certificate for listed Lawyers who wish to have or display the branded souvenirs or to use our proprietary digital materials in their business  branding. We may also charge listed and unlisted law firms and lawyers an affordable fee for limited banner advertising or publishing of enhanced profiles next to the listings.

For any question or feedback on any list or listing, feel free to contact THE LAWYER AFRICA PUBLISHER at info[at]thelawyer[dot]africa.

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News & Analysis

The Roles of the Three Parts of the Permanent Court of Arbitration




H.E. Amb. Marcin Czepelak, the Fourteenth Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

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News & Analysis

Brief History of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)




By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, C.Arb, Current Member of Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Representing the Republic of Kenya.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is a 124 Years Old Intergovernmental Organization currently with 122 contracting states. It was established at the turn of 20th Century during the first Hague Peace Conference held between 18th May and 29th July 1899. The conference was an initiative of then Russian Czar Nicholas II to discuss peace and disarmament and specifically with the object of “seeking the most effective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and lasting peace, and, above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing armaments.” The culmination of the conference was the adoption of a Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which dealt not only with arbitration but also with other methods of pacific settlement, such as good offices and mediation.

The aim of the conference was to “strengthen systems of international dispute resolution” especially international arbitration which in the last century had proven effective for the purpose with number of successful international arbitrations being concluded among Nations. The Alabama arbitration of 1871-1872 between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) under the Treaty of Washington of 1871 culminating in the arbitral tribunal’s award that the UK pay the US compensation for breach of neutrality during American Civil War which it did had demonstrated the effectiveness of arbitration in settling of international disputes and piqued interest of many practitioners in it as a mode of dispute resolution during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

The Institut de Droit International adopted a code of procedure for arbitration in 1875 to answer the need for a general law of arbitration governing for countries and parties wishing to have recourse to international arbitration. The growth of arbitration as a mode of international dispute resolution formed the background of the 1899 conference and informed its most enduring achievement, namely, the establishment of the PCA as the first global mechanism for the settlement of disputes between states. Article 16 of the 1899 Convention recognized that “in questions of a legal nature, and especially in the interpretation or application of International Conventions” arbitration is the “most effective, and at the same time the most equitable, means of settling disputes which diplomacy has failed to settle.”

In turn, the 1899 Convention provided for the creation of permanent machinery to enable the setting up of arbitral tribunals as necessary and to facilitate their work under the auspices of the institution it named as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). In particular, Article 20 of the 1899 Convention stated that “[w]ith the object of facilitating an immediate recourse to arbitration for international differences which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, the signatory Powers undertake to organize a Permanent Court of Arbitration, accessible at all times and operating, unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, in accordance with the rules of procedure inserted in the present Convention.” In effect, the Convention set up a permanent system of international arbitration and institutionalized the law and practice of arbitration in a definite and acceptable way.

As a result, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was established in 1900 and began operating in 1902. The PCA as established consisted of a panel of jurists designated by each country acceding to the Convention with each country being entitled to designate up to four from among whom the members of each arbitral tribunal might be chosen. In addition, the Convention created a permanent Bureau, located in The Hague, with functions similar to those of a court registry or secretariat. The 1899 Convention also laid down a set of rules of procedure to govern the conduct of arbitrations under the PCA framework.

The second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 saw a revision of the 1899 Convention and improvement of the rules governing arbitral proceedings. Today, the PCA has developed into a modern, multi-faceted arbitral institution perfectly situated to meet the evolving dispute resolution needs of the international community. The Permanent Court of Arbitration has also diversified its service offering alongside those contemplated by the Conventions. For instance, today the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration serves as a registry in important international arbitrations. In 1993, the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted new “Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes between Two Parties of Which Only One Is a State” and, in 2001, “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment”.


PCA Website: (accessed on 25th May 2023).

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