What you need to know:
- One only has to look at Upper Hill — which used to be forested but has lost its allure to developers — to understand the emerging scenario.
- We have few public parks within the city since most of the open spaces or greenways were grabbed by developers.
From the “Green City in the Sun”, the City of Nairobi is slowly becoming a concrete jungle. The ongoing real estate and infrastructural developments have left the urban landscape with more pavements and concrete than green spaces and, soon, if we don’t pay attention, we shall have no carbon sinks in the capital city.
When Nairobi was founded some 120 years ago, the place was described as a “wind-swept... devoid of any vegetation” and it took the efforts of the likes of John Ainsworth to plant most of the trees we still see within the city. The others were planted by the late John Gakuo — the only post-independence Town Clerk with a desire to green Nairobi’s central Business District.
Today, one only has to look at Upper Hill — which used to be forested but has lost its allure to developers — to understand the emerging scenario. The entire Eastlands is a treeless jungle. The construction of Nairobi Expressway, which stretches from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) junction on Mombasa Road to Waiyaki Way on the other side of town, has seen both the Ainsworth and Gakuo trees cut down and we have ask the authorities to re-green this space and come up with an environmental strategy.
The problem with Nairobi is that we have few public parks within the city since most of the open spaces or greenways were grabbed by developers. We are lucky that environmental activists such as Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai successfully fought hard to save both Uhuru Park and Karura Forest from land grabbers. More so, an attempt to grab Jeevanjee Gardens was also thwarted in 1990s.
Nairobi’s growth as a city must be in tandem with the greening of its open spaces. The time has come for us to rethink how to green these spaces, either with natural or managed vegetation.
We have a chance to do so before it is all gone.