The development of laws relating to sustainable environmental management is relatively recent. Consequently, the courts, as the principal avenues for resolving disputes, are not quite prepared to deal with the issues arising from them. Additionally, the court processes tend, typically, to be slow, costly, and complex.
Administrative tribunals, on the other hand, are often deliberately designed to be more accessible to the public and are therefore less expensive, less complex, and speedier, because the rules allow them a measure of discretion and flexibility in due process. Administrative tribunals do not comprise only lawyers. Typically, the bench comprises a mix of lawyers and specialists in the subject matter of the tribunal. Additionally, they are often empowered to introduce specialist technical knowledge in the form of assessors who can help to clarify technical and factual issues. These factors facilitate resolution of disputes over technical and factual matters with greater accuracy and confidence.
In December 1999, the Kenya Parliament enacted the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA or “the Act”). The Act went into effect and became law shortly thereafter, on 14 January 2000. But, as events were subsequently to demonstrate, this commencement date was premature, and almost two years elapsed before the process of setting up the institutions established under the Act began in earnest.
EMCA's principal object is to guide and regulate environmental management in Kenya.