Private developers eye city’s ecological sites

By David Njagi

Environmentalists have sounded an alarm over a newwave of illegal acquisition of public land in Nairobicity’s ecologically important sites.

Most sites targeted by an emerging class ofunscrupulous businessmen who reportedly enjoy supportfrom the ruling class fall under the city’s importantriparian reserves and recreational sites.

Leading concerned residents early this week, 2004Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai protestedto the government at the rate at which unscrupulousbusinessmen had resurfaced, grabbing every availableland for development.

“In recent times there have been many cases ofencroaching on sites which should not be developed asthey are earmarked as open spaces or river reserves,”said Prof. Mathaai, “this is important because suchspaces prevent environmental degradation especially infragile areas like marshlands and riverbeds.”

The most recent case, read a statement issued by theNobel Laureate, was one registered by the Nairobi CityCouncil (NCC) as number L.R. Number 209/12184 inSpring Valley, which sits a few kilometers from theUnited Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

According to Prof. Maathai, allocation of the piecesof land is suspect though private developers claimthey have official endorsement from the NationalEnvironmental Authority (NEMA) and NCC.

“Because some of these plots are in the Ndung’ureport, we can assume that some were allocated at thetime when land grabbing and corruption in someministries was common,” said Prof. Maathai, “suchsites should never have been allocated forconstruction.”

Even though Kenya’s biggest city, Nairobi, hasembarked on a serious campaign to restore the city toits original glory when it was axiomatically referredto the ‘city in the sun’, institutions such as theNEMA have been accused of failing to give the campaignthe much needed jolt.

And while it is claimed powerful politicians arebehind the recent spate of land grabbing, Kenyans seemto have become bolder as far as their public landrights are concerned, and will go to any lengths toprotect them, as was witnessed during the SpringValley confrontation with the private developer.

Meanwhile, Prof. Maathai, Thursday, joined the formerJapan Minister for Environment, Ms. Wakako Hironaka,at the Dandora landfill as part of the global campaignagainst flimsy plastics, popularily known as theMottainai campaign.

Les than two months ago, Kenya’s Minister for Finance,Amos Kimunya, announced an excise duty of 120 percenton plastic bags in the 2007/08 budget speech. Butplastic manufacturing companies have protested on themove and requested until January 2008 to phase out theplastic stocks in their warehouses.

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