, KISUMU, Kenya, Jan 31 – The Court of Appeal in Kisumu has revoked a decision by the Environment and Land Court ordering the closure of the Kibos Sugar factory over environmental pollution.
In a ruling delivered on Friday, a three-judge bench invalidated a July 2019 verdict against the privately-owned sugar mill by Justice Stephen Kibunjia.
The appellate court ruling originally set to be delivered in December had been postponed after one of the judges in the bench failed to show up and later discovered dead at his apartment.
In the ruling, Justices Asike Makhandia, Philip Kiage and the late Otieno Odek noted that there was no evidence adduced to the lower court to prove any danger the pollution of the local rivers paused to the residents.
Justice Kibunjia had ordered for the demolition of the sugar factory to restore the environment to its original status, revoking an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license he said the miller obtained un-procedurally.
Kibunjia ruled that National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) had issued the miller with an EIA license without carrying out a study.
In the appeal, however, the miller sought to overturn the decision arguing the evidence they tendered before the trail court was not considered.
The evidence included a motion from the County Assembly of Kisumu as well as another report from NEMA.
During the Friday ruling delivered by Justice Musinga on behalf of the bench, the company was directed to proceed with its annual environmental audit as required by law.
“The court has also ordered the appellants to conduct annual environmental audit of the project and its activities,” read part of the judgment.
In the suit at the lower court the petitioners – Bether Atieno, Benson Ambuti and Erick Ochieng – had accused the miller of discharging raw effluent into Rivers Kibos and Nyamasaria.
They had sued Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries Limited, Kibos Distillers, Kibos Power Limited, Kibos Paper Mill, the County Government of Kisumu and NEMA.
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