In a bid to expedite court cases related to environmental degradation, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has called for the establishment of a special court.
Speaking at the parliamentary symposium on environment organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), natural resources and economic development, the executive director NEMA, Dr. Akankwasa Barirega says ordinary courts of law take a long time to penalize culprits found mismanaging the environment.
Much as NEMA has tried to engage and pursue polluters and developers, compliance through the soft model is still limited.
But like in any society there always errant people, people that will not comply with the agreement made, so now NEMA wants people to take responsibility for their actions (pollution, littering of kaveera, degradation)
Akankwasa says that whereas NEMA will maintain continuous awareness, propose to government alternative sources of livelihoods where possible, ultimately the environmental management authority shall arrest, investigate and prosecute all those who fail to live within the law despite all the soft methods of engagement and compliance assistance.
“So we need a court to expedite cases for environment because if for example you are arrested back filing a lake and if the case is to take average of five years by the time the case is disposed off, the lake may be no more,” noted Akankwasa
Justifying the proposal for an environmental court, Akankwasa said that environmental related cases need a faster response because the environment may not be recovered once it’s degraded.
Currently there is a wildlife court at the magistrates’ level that deals with wildlife and other environmental matters but there very many environmental offences are above the magistrate’s jurisdiction.
For example developing a road without an Environmental Impact Assessment Report is an offence and the fine/penalty is around 200 million shillings, this jurisdiction is above the magistrate’s court, it’s only handled by the high court.
“We need a high court division to deal with matters of environment both civil and criminal currently we have a high court division on land matters judiciary could consider to cover environmental matter alternatively the judiciary could establish a dedicated division the way we have a division on corruption, international crimes,”said Akankwasa.
Akankwasa is optimistic that the high court division on environment will ease prosecution of culprits of environmental degradation.