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A policy on the management of open green spaces long overdue


DNClimateSummit0309r

Final preparations being made at The Kenyatta International Convention Centre ahead of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit 2023 that starts on September 4, in this photo taken on September 3, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

This week Nairobi hosts the Africa Climate Summit, a high-level event that seeks to have the continent take leadership in charting a path towards resolving the climate crisis.

As the discussions go on, the authorities have put in place elaborate measures to ensure peace and tranquillity and to give the visitors the best that Kenya and the city has to offer.

Those discussions provide the backdrop of examining the status of Nairobi as a city. A few days ago, a friend of mine was assessing whether the city is any cleaner and service delivery improved.

This was in the context of the performance of Governor Johnson Sakaja, a year after the elections. My view was that efforts had been made.

The more fundamental question that we should ask is whether Nairobi is the green city in the sun, as it was once referred to.

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As our visitors are attending the summit, will they see a green city in the sun? The above question is less about how the good governor has performed the last one year but more about the ecological status of the city one century later.

Being situated in the tropics, the city and the country still have a lot of sun. However, because of climate change, the weather patterns have changed tremendously.

Consequently, some of the months are now colder than they were in the past. There are days one wonders whether they are in Europe due to the temperature levels, hence the questions about us being a city in the sun. In total, though our location makes that statement largely accurate, at least most of the year.

The discussions at the Africa Climate Summit should help provide solutions for the existential challenge that impairs this truism though.

The more concerning part though is that of being a green city. Although we still have greenery in the city, boasts a national park within Nairobi and the extent of green spaces has tremendously reduced and continues to be under threat.

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During the Covid-19 pandemic, this column highlighted City Park as a public open space and the required protection it needed.

This was at a time when there had been threats of excision of the park due to the construction of the Nairobi Expressway.

A few months ago, together with some PhD students, we conducted a study on the management of green spaces in Nairobi.

The study was necessitated by the fact that open green spaces have in the past faced challenges which if not addressed urgently, will impair their ability to provide inhabitants and visitors such as those attending the summit with ecosystem services.

What is critical is that despite past calls to ensure that there is policy and legislative clarity on the management of open green spaces, there continues to be half-hearted responses only.

It is urgent that there be discussed and adopted a robust policy framework for the management of all open green spaces to ensure their conservation and sustainable utilisation. Nairobi needs to lead in this discussion if only to enable it to retain its status as a green city in the sun.

The writer is a law professor at the University of Nairobi.


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