Archive for the ‘Landscape and Land Use’ Category

Karen – From Grace to Grass

Written by Sande Dengal,
Edited by Gloria Auma N.

Karen is one of the much sought after leafy suburbs of Nairobi, being rivaled only by areas like Muthaiga and Runda. The Nairobi residents of this upmarket area have enjoyed its quiet and serene environment for quite a long time.

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Taxis lined up waiting for customers at the Karen Shopping Center outside a makeshift extension to a building.

The Karen suburb is located within the Northern Nairobi area and got its name from renown Baroness – Karen Christenze von Blixen –Finecke, a Danish author (17.04.1885 –07.09.1962) who lived in the area from 1914 to 1931. She is best known for her book ‘Out of Africa’, which is an account of her life while in Kenya. The book was adopted into an Academy Award winning film. She also established the Karen Coffee Company.

Karen is a low-density, single-dimensional development area, characterised by large residential subdivisions, very good amenities and lower crime rates. Over the years it has been home to both wealthy and prominent people in Kenyan society.

In the recent past, however, it has attracted many a good number of people seeking to settle within its bounds. This has led to a high demand for, and establishment of shopping malls around the area. This pits the benefits to individuals against broader social and environmental concerns.

Karen Shopping Center  is located at a-round-about serving both Ngong Road and d and Langata Road. In many situations, strip or ribbon development takes place when extensive commercial development occurs in a linear pattern along both sides of major arterial roadways. Like other aspects of urban sprawl, it is viewed as ugly and as a cause of traffic congestion caused by old matatus parked on both sides of the road, mushrooming roadside kiosks, people trading second hand cloths, stagnant water in non functional drainage systems as well as  a constant barrage of disorderly foot traffic from shoppers and workers entering and exiting the street.

“This aspect of urban sprawl has led to the insecurity of the area.” Said Ronald Musengi, a Commissioner at the National Police Service Commission and a long time resident of Karen.  

The 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects UN report says rapid urbanisation brings opportunities for governments to improve access to important services. “Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a predominantly rural household,” it says.

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Mushrooming commercial establishments have increased the foot traffic along the Karen roads.

The residents of Karen acknowledge that growth is inevitable but are asking the Nairobi City County government to intervene. The residents would like the government to address the situation by expansion of available facilities to cater to the new populations and have Karen reclaim its former glory. Would Nairobi City County take up the request and embrace this evident opportunity to improve access to the important services – public transportation, water and sanitation for the shopping center?

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Renewing the hope of dissolute vine

Cover
We are all standing on this ice sheet that is susceptible to the weight of over seven billion. The hole up North sends a shiver through our skin. I see twenty five showered in their warm clothing. What about the seventy one of us? Where will our warmth come from?

Down South, the friction crack is deep on this side of film crust. What did they do to expose feeble life to this worrisome and sleep depriving crack? Moreover, she has to worry of where or when her next plate of rice will be found. Forget about disappearing flows of life that nourish this ice sheet. They say the South has surpassed its carrying capacity and they are too many on this side. But they do not have what North has. I walk on bare foot while he drives this monster that guzzles the underneath precious. He prides of his inventions that block the sun shine to our faces. We can’t even recall memories of clear sunrise or set. Why was he created and invented all this blood sucking calculus around us.

I hear him whisper on other side of the fence, “They have too much space, why don’t we exchange our time on our side with theirs”. We can’t pretend no more this hole on our side will swallow us – take our children’s play fields away and next they will be force to live on manufactured ice-lining to cover numerous foreseeable holes.

option1Yes, you see how they are well armed to kill us. Let’s dump this polythene bag here and see if they will cross over to pick. This side of the friction crack is care free – we did not cause the hole and this crack too. I see heaps of rubbish and throat chocking odor. I have stomach upsets due to infiltrated filth in my only cup of life. I take this glass of wine where we all meet. Our social plus spiritual-cultural divide seems to have overtaken our interests to hold this champagne glass on this ecological space. In my eyes it looks like the top – have it, and between stands great narrow divide with wide base of – have not.

I feel some breeze sweeping the snow dust on my worn out feet. I am in a siesta and through this eye I see two inverted glass cups similar to those of champagne glass. Slowly, the dust gathers into the top cup. It looks like one side is full and the other empty. A vine tree with degenerating growth is what I see. Equality my heart jumps, both glass cups are half full but the lower one seems to increase. I can hear a voice whisper through this glass cups let’s pull the curtains down. There will be no moment like this again.

It seems everyone overheard the whisper. Woken up by this confusion, someone stepped on me, they are running and she is crying what we will do. The glasses seem to be getting closer to our helter scepter life. This breeze is gradual pulling my arm up similar to magical robes. I can’t reach the two glass cups. In her little angel strength she tries to hold me up. Where is everyone? I am at the verge of falling through the friction crack. Their mass on one side may save me. It is like a slow heavy jack lifting me and only to about touch this glass cups. The full one tilts to the top and I see snow dust slip to the lower side. I hear a cheer, like a triumphant army trudging through the well cared fields and consciously placed huts.

United they narrate of being sandwiched with these nearly divided ice plates. Imagine being buried within these plates and sink down in this sludge of misconducts. You saved us but I harshly say no – don’t you see the friction crack is now no more. It will recur if we do not take time to take care of it. Let us uphold Una Terra, Una Famiglia Umana spirit – Italian words for one planet one human family.

Thika Road – Metropolitan Class

Thika Road – Metropolitan Class

Thika Rd

Thika Road new super highway

Six years ago traffic on Thika road seemed a nightmare and residents of adjacent estates recall long hours in traffic. The elimination of roundabouts and other bottlenecks such as single lane tracks has significantly eased traffic flow and reduced the cost of running a public service vehicle on the highway.

The flyovers, interchanges, underpasses [box culverts] and overpasses provided are meant to ease congestion and provide an access controlled motorway with accompanying service roads, slip roads, bus laybays and well demarcated lanes.

According to various reports, Nairobi is estimated to lose Sh20 billion a year on traffic jams, more than City Hall spends annually to provide services such as water, sewerage and garbage collection to residents. With Thika road then accounting high number of billions per annum.

The ten-lane Thika Road has cast off the spell of notoriously wasting man-hours. Time that could be useful otherwise being burnt up in traffic jams is a major loss for any economy.

Thika Rd

Thika Road – Super Highway

The approximately 97 per cent completed Nairobi-Thika Super highway stands out as the latest infrastructure facility with extra emphasis on safety for motorists and pedestrians. The bridges are also covered incase of bad weather conditions. The landings of the ramps and stairs for the bridges lead pedestrians to the foot path/cycles, which have been developed, on both sides of the road all the way from Nairobi to Birmingham of Kenya – the industrial Thika town.

As the project draws to completion, it is interesting the way it continues to attract admiration. The superhighway remains such a phenomenon to behold that it has attracted delegations from several countries including Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Niger among others. I imagine school children will soon tour Nairobi and on their list will be a ride on the only superhighway in East Africa.

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