The County Government of Mombasa is mapping up open areas as part of plans to establish green spaces in the coastal town.
According to Mombasa County Environment Executive Geofrey Nato, already several areas have been identified for the project.
Nato said the county government has already started planting indigenous trees and grass to create green spaces.
Some of the areas earmarked for the project are the roundabout next to the Old Mombasa Railway Station and the Treasury Square outside the Mombasa County.
Nato said besides beautification, the “greening” project has other benefits that are bound to improve life for the town residents.
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“This will help in pollution control, temperature regulation, and improving biodiversity, all of which ultimately add to the quality of life for city dwellers,” he said.
“Like in other urban areas, green spaces have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents who use them.’’
Nato said public access to a city’s green spaces is determined by their location and distribution, which, in turn, is decided based on urban planning, the historic context in which they are created, the topography of the region and the population density.
Mombasa’s rising population has constrained the town’s infrastructural development.
Apart from the areas designated for green spaces, the town’s only other notable such spaces are the Uhuru Garden located next to the most photographed historical landmark, the giant elephant tusks that straddle the busy Moi Avenue.
On the outskirts of Mombasa, along the busy Mombasa-Malindi highway, there is also the Bamburi Nature Trail also known as Haller Park.
It represents one of Kenya’s best kept environmental conservation venture with its crisp air, green vegetation and teeming wildlife.
Essentially, no two green spaces are the same. Environmental experts say when green spaces are placed next to lakes and other water bodies, greenery and vegetation serve as environmental buffers, regulating the water’s temperature through shade, and thereby protecting the habitat of the aquatic species living there.
They are also known to provide nutrients and protection from pollution.
Vegetation also stabilises the ground surrounding the water by preventing erosion. Prime examples of water-front green spaces can be found in Minsk, Belarus and Bern in Switzerland.
In some cities, green spaces like forests and nature reserves are protected to maintain a region’s biodiversity.
These places are typically more remote and difficult to access but can also be integrated into urban centres as a way to create more green space for residents.
Green spaces are typically located in a central zone of the city that provides space for sports, recreation, and socialising for locals and tourists alike.
In Kenya, however, the concept is yet to pick up, with political interference getting in the way of such projects.
For instance, it took the intervention of environmentalists to prevent attempts by the political class to hive off a section of Nairobi’s Uhuru Park by politically connected individuals to develop a 60-storey multi-user facility.
The late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai was at the forefront in opposing the annexing of the historical park.
Today, the park still maintains expansive lawns, assorted tree species and even a man-made lake, providing an ideal space for relaxation for city dwellers.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), green spaces such as parks, urban forests, wetlands or other ecosystems represent a fundamental component of any urban ecosystem.
The presence of green spaces in urban areas offers an area for physical activity and relaxation while filtering noise and dust.
With urban forests, oxygen produced by trees filters out harmful air pollution. Such spaces also play a key part in water distribution into lakes and ponds, which moderate temperatures within the city.
While few and far between, areas such as Uhuru Park earned Nairobi the moniker of “the green city in the sun”, a title that many have discredited over the years due to its deteriorating standards.
Besides Uhuru Park, Nairobi boasts being home to the Nairobi National Park, the only such facility within a city anywhere in the world.
The park is Kenya’s oldest protected area, hosting over 400 bird species and four of the Big Five animal species.
Nairobi also boasts the Karura Forest located north of the central business district and the Nairobi Arboretum, which has over 350 tree species.