The High Court has made a landmark ruling requiring local people to be involved in all development plans for the fragile Tana River Delta.
High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi said an agency should be set up to oversee the development of the delta with full participation of the communities, government agencies and conservation groups.
Lady Justice Ngugi directed that the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (Tarda), one of the respondents in the suit, releases for review its existing development plans.
“The short, medium and long range land use development plans will have to be developed with full participation of the community as well as the agencies and other stakeholders who have interest in the Tana Delta,” she said.
The ruling which follows an application by representatives of farmers, fishermen, pastoralists and conservation groups seeking to halt large-scale commercial developments in the Tana Delta until a master plan was in place.
Others respondents in the suit were the Attorney-General, National Environment Management Authority (Nema), Tana River County Council, Commissioner of Lands and Water Resources Management Authority.
“The essence of the case is to have government agencies undertake a collaborative approach that respects the rights of all stakeholders, indigenous peoples and wildlife,” said Ms Serah Munguti, from Nature Kenya, an environmental conservation lobby.
Conflicts over resources have resulted in repeated clashes pitting farmers against pastoralists as increasing international investors scramble for land in the area for large-scale farming of food and biofuel crops.
The Delta which is home to more than 100,000 people mostly fishermen, herdsmen and farmers, is a key biodiversity area and is Kenya’s newest Ramsar site -an important area for birds and wildlife.