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Iconic city fig tree finally has its way on road project

By Josphat Thiong'o | Nov 12th 2020 | 2 min read
By Josphat Thiong'o | November 12th 2020

Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) workers fencing off the famous iconic fig tree along Waiyaki Way during the declaration by NMS and the office of the President to conserve it. Picture taken Nov 11, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

A century-old iconic fig tree on Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way, which had been earmarked to be cut down to pave way for the expressway, will not go down after all.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) yesterday announced it would preserve the tree that is considered sacred among the Agikuyu.

The tree stands in the middle of the route where the expressway is to be built.

An announcement by the NMS that it would be cutting down the tree caused a public uproar, with environmentalists taking to the streets to protest.

NMS had earlier said it would uproot and relocate the tree to an undisclosed location. Yesterday, NMS Director General Mohammed Badi announced that the tree will not be affected by ongoing road works.

“There were fears from conservationists and the public that the beauty of this tree, which is over 100 years, would be gone. I am here to assure the public that this tree will be preserved and that whatever development going on here will not affect it,” he said.

The director also asked the Chinese contractor of the multi-billion shilling highway and the Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) to ensure that the tree is not interfered with even as construction goes on.

Stephen Nzioka, the environment, water and sanitation director at NMS, read the declaration to conserve the tree.

Neighbourhood parks

“This fig tree is hereby adopted by the NMS on behalf of the people of Nairobi and all Kenyans as a beacon of Kenya’s cultural and ecological heritage, and as a symbol of Nairobi’s commitment to environmental conservation,” he read.

Uhuru Park, Central Park and the Jeevanje Gardens have been earmarked for revitalisation to create greener recreational spaces.

The Nairobi County Government has also mooted plans to create new neighbourhood parks for the community to enjoy recreational spaces close to their home.

Wanjiru Maathai, the Vice President of the World Resources Institute, said NMS's efforts will improve the biodiversity of the city.

“We are lucky we are staying in a city that is green and we should ensure it stays that way,” Maathai said.

She, however, implored the NMS to hastily work on the conservation of Karura Forest to help it regain its original stature.

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