Bill to ensure public open spaces get title deeds to avert grabbing



A section of Michuki Memorial Park in Nairobi [David Njaaga, Standard]

Nairobi County Assembly is banking on issuance of title deeds to public open spaces to keep away land grabbers.

This is after residents raised alarm over continued shrinking of public open space due to encroachment and grabbing by unscrupulous private developers.

The Nairobi City County Public Open Spaces Use and Maintenance Bill 2021, before the Assembly seeks to regulate public open space.

The Bill sponsored by Nominated MCA Millicent Okatch seeks to ensure any land laid out or declared a public park or public open space, be maintained and used solely for the purpose for which it was laid out or be reserved.

“Consequently, each public open space in the county shall be issued with a title deed to be held in public trust for the protection of the space from unwarranted mis-allocation,” states the Bill in part.

According to the Bill, which has already undergone First Reading, a public open space is all open space of public value, including not just land but also areas of water such as rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs which offer important opportunities for sport and recreation and can also act as a visual amenity.

It further defines a park as open spaces, pleasure resorts, recreation areas, gardens, squares, reserves and bird sanctuaries within the county, including all buildings, grounds and spaces situated in such areas.

A spot check by The Standard reveals that currently there are six notable open spaces/parks in the capital namely Uhuru/Central Park (currently under renovation), Jamhuri Park, City Park, Arboretum, Kamkunji, Jevanjee Gardens, Karura Forest and Ngong Road Forest.

According to the Nairobi City County Public Space Inventory and Assessment Report- released by UN-Habitat Kenya in September 2020, the city has more than 826 public spaces comprising 99 playgrounds, 51 sports fields, 15 parks and 19 gardens among others.

However, most of these spaces have either been encroached, grabbed or are under threat from private developers.

Road projects have also eaten into these public amenities. In light of this, the proposed law recommends that the county and private property owners shall have a shared responsibility to maintain and improve property frontage declared as public open spaces.

To this end, the county executive appointed by the governor will be in charge of the use and maintenance of public open spaces. He or she will in turn appoint officials in charge of enforcing functions and the provisions of the Bill, once it becomes an Act.

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