The Environment and Lands Court on Friday ruled that it will now hear a case pitting villagers against Kipsigis Highlands tea factory at the disputed location.
Residents of Chepchabas village are accusing the newly opened factory of emitting effluent to three local rivers in the area and endangering their lives.
High Court Judge Jane Onyango further stated that environmental and water experts will visit the site to ascertain the claims.
Philip Rugut, Joseph Kipsang and Peter Cheruiyot moved to court on behalf of the community seeking to have the factory situated in Konoin constituency, Bomet County closed down.
It is alleged that the factory releases effluent into Emitiot, Kaboisio and Koroma rivers.
In a petition filed through lawyer Rogers Mukumia, the residents stated that the release of the effluent from Kipsigis Highlands tea factory violated their right to clean and healthy environment.
They also claimed the factory was constructed without public participation.
The factory management is further accused of repeatedly failing to release an Environmental Impact Assessment report which was allegedly used by National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) to issue an operating license.
The advocate in making the application to have court sessions moved to the site argued that this would enable the court to confirm whether details contained in the Environmental Impact Assessment report were factual or not.
Justice Onyango who was presiding over the case, dismissed an objection by Kipsigis Highlands tea factory lawyer Erastus Orina.
Orina had stated that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter arguing that the petition should have first been filed before the National Environment Tribunal.
“An environment and Lands court has jurisdiction to hear any dispute relating to environment and land, violation and infringement of rights to clean and healthy environment. It also has unlimited, original and appellate jurisdiction on the same matters,” stated Justice Onyango.
The Judge declined to issue temporary orders sought by the petitioners to halt operations in the factory until the case is heard and determined.
She stated that the move would be too punitive and the remedy was for the case to be fast-tracked.
The Judge however warned residents against holding demonstrations as the matter is before court.
“It is important for the defence counsel to advise his clients against holding demonstrations while the matter is actively in court. Demonstrations defeats the essence of having the matter heard and determined by a court of law,” stated Justice Onyango.
The matter will be mentioned on September 19.
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