Environmental activists and public interest litigation advocates are on high alert after it emerged that the proposed Westlands-JKIA expressway would cut through a significant chunk of Uhuru Park.
Uhuru Park at risk of being grabbed in gov’t's new deal with China
Uhuru has already launched the controversial project
President Uhuru Kenyatta last week launched the 27-kilometres highway that will be constructed by China Roads and Bridge Company (CRBC) – a company owned by the Government of China.
The terms of the contract were not availed to the public even as it emerged that CRBC would be given sole powers to manage and charge toll fees for twenty-six years in a bid to recover the construction cost.
Works on the road are expected to start immediately and projected to be complete by 2023.
The bigger challenge, however, is that there was no public participation which would have included a disclosure of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the effect of the road on the public environment.
Revelation that the road would slice through Uhuru Park has elicited a public debate, with prominent public opinion leaders swearing to do everything possible to stop the encroachment of a prestigious public space.
“Nairobi Express Highway said to be cutting through Uhuru Park, surely the Public is entitled to full & accurate information, extent of the encroachment? Public views/participation?” Senior Counsel Paul Muite said.
“People in Nairobi have nowhere to breathe. Has GoK not even seen how Uhuru Park is packed on Sundays because there are no spaces for family recreation? Yet they own 500ha and relax at golf clubs. Muigai is like King Ahab stealing from Naboth,” Wandia Njoya complained on Twitter.
“The sad part about that Expressway passing thru Uhuru park, is that it will be built by the Chinese, using Chinese money, Chinese Engineers and workers, using Chinese materials and tools and operated by the Chinese for 30 sh*tty years! LORD! do we have a country anymore?" Movement for Advancement of Democracy (MDF) Chairman Ndege Sirkal lamented.
"Thank you for sharing this @gabrieloguda Too bad that our laureate and mentor Prof. Wangari Maathai is no longer here to lead us in opposing this encroachment. That baton was passed to us...#LeaveUhuruParkAlone," former IEBC Commissioner Dr Roselyne Akome tweeted.
In the late 1980s, a previous plan by President Daniel arap Moi’s government, to build a mega business complex in a section of the park, was defeated after a spirited protest campaign led by the late Wangari Mathai.
A section of the park, Wangari Mathai Corner, is named in honor of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner. It could be part of the sliced-through area given its close proximity to the projected mapping of the controversial expressway.
It was not immediately if the Nairobi County Government, which holds the park in public trust, had been involved in the government’s deal with CRBC.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has in the past proposed to create a terminus in the middle of Uhuru Park – a plan that he abandoned after a public uproar.
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