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Loss of public spaces continues despite new inventory

By Peter Muiruri | August 11th 2016

A report carried in a local daily last week mentioned how a piece of land meant for the development of a street children rehabilitation centre was grabbed by a local politician. The land was donated by Kenya Pipeline Company nine years ago at the request of retired President Mwai Kibaki.

The story brings to the fore the reality of how the city is fast losing its public spaces to private developers. I came across this story while trying to find out how the city protects its open spaces.

Part of my research took me to a meeting that was held earlier this year at the United Nations office in Nairobi where more than 100 county participants gathered to validate the recently concluded Nairobi Open Public Spaces Assessment and Inventory. This was the first ever inventory of the public spaces in Nairobi.

The inventory was done between September 23, 2015 and January 15, 2016. A total of 1,455 open public spaces were identified from the inventory. The city county plans on picking out 60 spaces at first and rehabilitating them to become livable, inclusive, attractive and functional for the good of the people.

The inventory included playgrounds, public parks, gardens and general open spaces. During that event, Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke informed participants that the county was developing a policy on the identification of public spaces to ensure that they are safe and inclusive.

He said the inventory was important in filling information gaps, emphasising its importance “because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Sadly, such blatant grabbing of public spaces is taking place in total disregard of these initiatives. According to UN-Habitat, cities that are walkable and transit-friendly require a highly connected network of paths and streets around small and permeable blocks.

“A tight network of paths and streets offering multiple routes to many destinations make walking and cycling trips varied and enjoyable. This has clear implications in making cities more energy efficient,” says UN-Habitat.

The inventory will be instrumental in the preparation of a city-wide strategy of managing public spaces in Nairobi.

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