Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

OUR GREEN SPACES: WHY WE SHOULD PRESERVE THEM


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We are surrounded by green spaces but most of us may not be aware of what they actually are, where they are located and what their importance is to us as a country.

Green spaces defined by the English Dictionary are areas of grass, trees or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an urban environment. However, green spaces offer much more than that. For instance,  

  • They contribute to the expansion of biodiversity- creating habitats and food for wildlife which is essential for improving our quality of life.
  • They act as filters for some of the most harmful air pollutants.
  • They mitigate the consequences of global warming which directly affect the health and welfare of citizens.
  • The presence of green spaces in urban areas also reduces urban heat that appears as a result of human activity.

  • They act as our connection to nature that help us reduce day to day stress improving our mental health, increasing our social activities, reducing diseases and consequently leading to a better well lived life. 

According to the UN-Habitat Kenya stated that, 'The Nairobi City County Public Space Inventory and Assessment,' in September 2020 said the city has more than 826 public spaces. They include 99 playgrounds, 51 sports fields, 15 parks and 19 gardens, among others. 

With a major reduction of green spaces left due to rapid population growth and urbanization that has required infrastructural development, Nairobi is left with a few historical and new public green spaces such as:

Nairobi National Park

As East Africa’s and Kenya’s first ever National park, the green space is located a short drive out of Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD). The park plays host to over 80 species of mammals, 500 species of plants, 400 species of birds, and 40 species of reptiles and amphibians.Visitors of the park can also enjoy hotels situated inside the park, picnic sites, camping sites and walking trails.

 Uhuru/Central Park

Opened in 1969 by Mzee Jommo Kenyatta, the park boasts of a man-made lake, national monuments and an assembly ground. It was also grounds for Wangari Maathai’s protests against building a 60-storey business complex in 1989. The park continues to be one of the city’s biggest historical landmarks bringing people together for recreational purposes.

City Park

Established in 1921, City park was officially termed as a public park in 1925 and is known for its rich biodiversity. A survey conducted by Friends of Nairobi City Park identified 988 species of flora and fauna that remains detrimental for the ongoing climate change. The park was not spared of encroachment with a third being grabbed, leaving 60 hectares labeled protected areas. It includes a nature trail, a bar and restaurant and lovely picnic sites.

Ololua Forest

Hidden in the suburbs of Karen, lies Ololua forest on a 250 hectare of land. Inside it is the Ololua nature trail that has become a favourite for visitors looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for peace and tranquility. Filled with massive indigenous trees also lies Mbagathi River and a papyrus swamp that elevates the rich biodiversity of the forest. As if that is not enough, it also accommodates picnic lovers, has a spectacular waterfall and a 33m long cave.

Arboretum

Located 3kms from the city is Nairobi Arboretum that was gazette as a Forest Reserve in 1932 occupying 30.4 hectares. It now hosts over 300 species of exotic and indigenous tree species and has over 100 species of migrant and resident bird species in addition to Sykes and Vervet monkeys.  

Karura Forest

Karura forest has become one of the best green spaces that Nairobi has to offer to this date and has become an integral part of the social life of Nairobians.The forest is a 20-minute drive from the CBD and has two main entrances- from Kiambu Road and Limuru Road. It is one of the largest gazetted forests in the world fully within a city limit. The forest boasts of extraordinary biodiversity, including 200 bird species, a variety of animals, indigenous trees, a 20 metre waterfall, an old quarry lake covered with waterlilies, grassy glades and marshes; cycling tracks for adventure seekers and Mau Mau caves used during the struggle for independence in Kenya.

Jeevanjee Gardens

Jeevanjee is one of the few green spaces located inside the CBD sitting on a 5acre land donated to Nairobi in 1906. The park is surrounded by beautiful trees that accommodate Nairobi citizens, mostly students around the area to relax on the benches donated by Jeevanjee of Karachi, who also donated the Gardens. Several activists also gather around to discuss strategies and issues that center the country. 

Ngong Road Forest

Ngong forest lies in the outskirts of Nairobi, at the Northern tip of Kajiado covering an area of 3077.6 ha. The Ngong Road Forest is home to a bustling community of animals, reptiles and amphibians as well as the Ngong River and accommodates various activities such as hiking, picnics, camping and bird watching. What you may not be aware of is that the landscape of the Ngong Forest is gently rolling with regular shallow valleys, the deeper of which reveal volcanic tuffs and basaltic lava.

author

Wambui Mbugua

Wambui Mbugua is a Bachelor of Environment Science graduate driven by the will to save our planet.