Six top managers of a shoe-making factory based in Machakos were Tuesday arrested for ignoring an order requiring them to appear in court on accusations of polluting the environment.
At the same, the Machakos County government closed down the factory, Walker Industries, located in Mavoko, and hundreds of workers ordered to go home until further notice.
An arrest warrant was issued by a Mavoko court in March after the managers failed to appear in court to answer to charges of environmental pollution and failing to improve the working conditions of their workers.
The managers were at pains explaining why they had not complied with the law, five years after the Chinese company was constructed.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua accused the company of being among factories in the area that are polluting River Athi.
He accused officials of national and county governments of failing to enforce a warrant of arrest issued against the management of the company.
“It has also been disturbing to find that workers do not have protective gear and operate dangerous machines exposing them to harm,” said Dr Mutua during a press briefing after an impromptu visit of the company.
A recent report by Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources highlighted massive pollution of River Athi which is the source of water for millions of people downstream.
The committee established that the water was causing health and economic challenges to people living along the river.
“I give the companies that are breaking the law 30 days from today to comply with directives given to them by my government and also by Nema (National Environment Management Authority) and other agencies.
“It does not matter how big your investment is; if you are not adhering to the set laws and regulations, we are going to shut you down and lock you up,” said the governor, adding that no one is above the law.
Some high-end estates in the area were also put on notice for dumping raw sewage into the river.
The estates include 360 Apartments, Kings Gate, River Park estate, Grace Park estate and Lifestyle Gardens among others.
“These estates do not have sewer systems. All the raw sewage is poured into the river and it has caused ill-health to people downstream. We will arrest the adult residents of those estates for criminal activities if they do not comply,” said Dr Mutua.
The owners were directed to conform to the law within 45 days or their houses will be demolished.