Environment is the external conditions that surround a plant or an animal. It is derived from a French word “Environ” which means encircle or surround. In relation to human beings; it refers to human populations and their physical surroundings which may be natural or man- made settings in addition to cultural heritage.

Humanity has an obligation to care for the environment for its own survival because the environment acts as a sink for receiving waste produced by human activities either during the process of production or during consumption. Therefore humanity must ensure sustainable exploitation of the environment. But this caution has not been observed as human activities have stressed the environment’s ability to act as a sink.

Thus environmental awareness is critical because it equips the required knowledge to ensure environmental conservation and hence discourages activities that contribute to environmental pollution. Moreover knowledge in environmental education enables the people/citizens to be responsible & draw their attention to the fact that advancement in technology has a negative impact on the environment if corrective measures are not taken.

In this regard environmental management becomes not only a corporate responsibility but also an individual’s duty! Hence policies & laws must be put in place to protect the environment. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) 1999 go a long way in realizing this goal. Moreover, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), a creation of this Act; must take deliberate efforts to protect the environment from human activities that damage the environment.

EMCA is the main legislation on environment which was passed by Parliament in 1999. It provides legal & institutional frame work for environmental management and sustainance. From the constitution and the Act any person has locus standi or legal right to bring a case before a court of law. In addition to that public participation is guaranteed under the Act. I.e. people/citizens have a right to have information about decisions that affect the environment and this regard any project intended to be launched in a given locality, the residents have a say on its impact on their environment.

It is only under the law that endangered species can be protected. Under the Kenyan Constitution 2010, Article 42 in Chapter 4 (Bill of Rights) the residents of Kenya are guaranteed a clean and a healthy environment and in pursuant to article 42, article 70 read together with article 22(2) gives the right of enforcing article 42 not only for oneself but also for others. Any person who is aggrieved by environmental pollution can go to court for remedial action to be taken such as preventing, stopping or discontinuing any act or omission that is harmful to the environment. Any entity obligated with environmental care can be compelled by a court of law to take measures that end further pollution and compensate the victim (s) for the negligence of environmental care to ensure clean & healthy environment.

These three articles give EMCA (1999) a constitutional backing and confirms clean & healthy environment as a right. However, this right as alluded above; comes with a duty which includes every person bearing an obligation of maintaining a clean environment by not littering everywhere for the common good. In this connection, human beings must ensure a mutual relationship between themselves and the environment. In Biblical context (Genesis 2:15) human beings are deemed to be stewards who are tasked with a divine duty of managing and taking care of the environment. Consequently human beings are custodians of the environmental resources.

Harmful human activities have largely caused global warming or increase in temperatures. Some of these activities include deforestation, large release of carbon monoxide by industries, the increase of number of vehicles and air planes. For instance it’s not surprising to find vehicles written off in other countries being used in Kenyan/developing countries roads, use of nitrogen fertilizers which release nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide which the ozone layer protects us from harmful rays of the sun. As a result the ice cover has been greatly melting leading to increased sea levels (submerging of islands), increase rainfalls like elninos & laninas. Thus displacement of people and deaths of populations becomes the ultimate price.

It is against this background that the campaign for the relocation of the Dandora Dumpsite has been spearheaded by Kutoka Network. The Authorities obligated by law to come up with a better waste management technology have totally failed yet close to a million residents continues to suffer from respiratory infections. Nevertheless, it’s our hope that the new county government of Nairobi shall bring this environmental healthy standard violation to an end.

By Muthama Joseph: Program Officer-Kutoka Network,

Governance & Human Rights Educator