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Health & Fitness

Nairobi should create more green spaces for residents

Uhuru Park
Children play at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on August 12. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

In a recent discussion on the shifting trends of Nairobi’s neighbourhoods and the impact the 4.6 million population places on social amenities, it emerges that green spaces are shrinking. Specifically, recreational grounds for families and children’s play.

Along Thika Road, one observes an interesting scene at the roundabouts starting from Thika Road Mall, Kasarani, Githurai to the Eastern Bypass-Ruiru intersection on weekends. The few grassy areas around the roundabouts are turned into mini-Uhuru parks complete with ice-cream vendors, photographers, face painting and dating couples. Albeit small in size, they host hundreds of Nairobians.

If you reside in Githurai, Kasarani, Mwiki and surrounding areas, reasons as to this peculiar happening become manifest — there are absolutely no green places in most of these neighbourhoods.

Traditionally, amenities like Uhuru Park, Jevanjee Gardens, Nairobi Arboretum, Karura Forest and a few others have been Nairobi’s top escapes from the concrete jungle.

Their distinction being on size and amenities available. Evaluated on accessibility and quality of amenities, low-income neighbourhoods and families by extension are more likely to be underserved and often have a huge need for these.

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In the City Hall’s glory days, provision for playgrounds and trees were made. Subsequent developments, in a bid to optimise land, completely avoided these, while the few reserved spaces were grabbed.

REVIVE CITY’S GREEN SPACES

Globally as environmental concerns grow, the respite green spaces offer from the mental and emotional strain living in cities come with, are being highlighted. Progressive urban planners are pushing for more and green spaces.

Nature has a soothing balm. Promotion of the use of these amenities, however, requires concerted efforts.

What is needed is, legislation and additional resources towards improving the city’s green initiatives like legislation for acreage allocation per 100,000 housing units or per square kilometre.

A random assessment of available amenities paints a wanting situation. In the heyday of the Kenya Bus Services, a popular means of planning one’s budget was the “mega-rider”, a month-long valid bus pass.

Its key feature was zoning based on a series of concentric circles with ever-increasing radii representing the distance on which fares were pegged.

Considering the central district business (CBD) as the commencement point, gradated on 4km of additional radii. Each circle encompassed neighbourhoods, without any socio-economic distinction, as long as they were within equidistant from the CBD. Both rich and poor need these utilities.

The megarider circles are a sampling tool used to map out such places. The results along two routes show the need for urgent action from the planning departments.

For society and corporates, in particular, successful organisations need to adopt such projects for community relaxation places.

Of the two zones surveyed this weekend, a few commendable projects are noted, NIC Bank’s Nairobi River-Grogon rehabilitation and Spinners Industry project around their Ruiru factory are models others could emulate.

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