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Our cities should have better public recreation facilities

By Joyce Makula Mutinda | January 21st 2016

During the December 2015 holidays, the only recreational facility available for the majority of Nairobians was Uhuru Park. Like most Kenyans of modest means, I went to Uhuru Park for a holiday retreat.

The Park was congested, with men, women and children mingling together and scrambling for limited recreational activities. But young children were the lucky ones; they were favoured by mostly ballooned artificial facilities like swimming in a balloon, mountain climbing, train trails, swings, camel and horse riding.

Nairobi residents celebrate the New Year in style at Uhuru Park. (PHOTO: FIDELIS KABUNYI/ STANDARD)

Their parents were there as facilitators rather than participants. They paid for their children. But the people managing the activities were business opportunists rather than being providers of satisfactory services. I easily understood why: The demand far outstripped the supply.

My young sons thought the dam behind the dais was a swimming pool. They wanted to go in and swim. But the National Youth Service officers standing by ordered them out.

Wangari Maathai

Other members of the public had no option but to sit at the edge of the dam, dipping their feet inside the dirty water so as to cool their body temperatures due to the scorching sun. Thanks to our gone environmentalist, Prof Wangari Maathai, who saved Uhuru Park from being grabbed by some the then government operatives who wanted to build a multi-storey edifice.

If she had relented, where would the average Kenyans like us, who can’t afford to travel to Maasai Mara or Coast beaches, be retreating to during festive seasons? The 2010 Constitution and the National Land Policy talk about the importance and implementation of the provision of recreational facilities for the enjoyment of families.

On urban and peri-urban land use planning, the National Land Policy says: “Development of land in urban and peri-urban areas has been inhibited by poor planning, rapid growth of human settlements and activities, unmitigated urban sprawl and inadequate provision of infrastructure.

Proper planning will facilitate coordinated development of urban areas in terms of housing, commercial, industrial and infrastructure development to accommodate changes in lifestyle and economic activities.”

City planners should be reminded that healthy people are wealthy people. We should have a healthy residential and working environment devoid of uncollected garbage, poor sewerage systems, and dusty and muddy roads.

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