Posts tagged ‘Environment’

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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Reflections from Hong Kong: Sweltering And Rambling

DJI Phantom Lion Rock Hong Kong 獅子山頂
I take the stairs in leaping bounds, ambitiously striding upwards two concrete blocks at a time. After the fifth spread-eagling leap, I’m feeling knackered as the lactic acid is already pumping through my legs, choking them. My heart is pumping, blood thundering in my ears, and my breath bursts forth stochastically. But I soldier on. Two others follow me, and it would be intolerable to allow them to see me pause for even a moments rest.

I glance up the mountain again. Beads of sweat refract the sunlight into my dilated pupils, exposed after having nestled in the recessed shelter under the brim of my blue Danish Emergency Management Agency hat. A droplet twinkles as it jingles on a stiff strand of brow hair. The hydrostatic tension binds it to my right eyebrow, before it begins gracefully plummeting…downwards…into my gaping eye.

Pain. Brief blindness. Severe blinking. And then it’s over – the stinging salt of the sweat diluted by the relative freshness of the tear it brought forth.

This was my last Sunday, a day much like any other in the past 3 months, and one (yet again) necessitating the issuance of the “Very Hot Weather Warning”, by the Hong Kong Observatory – our local meteorological watchdog.

“Such days are becoming increasingly frequent here in the former British colony turned “Special Administrative Region”, and even denim-clad local is beginning to take notice.”

My forebears (i.e. the “Rents”) are Brits, and as such I have had occasion to journey back to the Motherland, that far-off, yet well known little (series of) island(s) sometimes referred to as “Blighty”. And blighted they are – incessant rains, sleet, fog, mist, etc. Any type of drab weather, and the United Kingdom is plagued by it! Accordingly, a typical characteristic of any true Brit is upon meeting another, to instantly bemoan the awfulness of the weather on that day. These interchanges inevitably beginning with exclamations of “Oh dear! The weather today is truly dreadful. It’s just so [hot/wet/cold/dry]!” [insert the Queen’s voice]

Having escaped that particular monotonous litany of dull weather-bound conversation in Britain, as of two years ago, I now find myself entering into similar dialogues here…in a former British colony…

Apparently, there is no escaping your heritage!

This particular hot day, Sunday 19th July, marked the 8th event this year which exceeded the balmy 33°C, putting us three scorching days ahead of last year’s incidences, and presenting pretty clear evidence that our native newspapers’ headlines may not be quite as hyperbolic as some like to believe.

The most widely read English language paper, the South China Morning Post, cooed earlier in the year as “Hong Kong enjoy[ed] unseasonably warm, dry weather in April”…unfortunately, this soon gave way to “More Hong Kong hill fires reported after hottest Ching Ming festival on record”. And as time has marched on “Up to seven typhoons and a hot 2015” has been heralded, and subsequently substantiated by “Hong Kong’s record heat likely to stay on the boil after hottest June in a century”. And it’s true. We are currently experiencing the hottest conditions in Hong Kong that we have ever had to contend with…at least since records began in 1884.

Plagiarising the Hong Kong Observatory verbatim, this month “the monthly mean temperature of 29.7°C was 1.8°C above the normal figure of 27.9°C and broke the previous record of 29.0°C set in 2014 by a wide margin of 0.7°C.”

“Compounding such temperatures, which admittedly pale in comparison with the heatwave in India in May, which killed over 2,500 as night temperatures exceeded 37°C (blood-boiling conditions) and as roads melted under the 48°C days, is the high humidity.”

According to the (hopefully) reliable “AccuWeather.com“, the last time I checked, under conditions of 31°C and 73% humidity, the “Real Feel” was more akin to 44°C…At the time, I certainly thought that assessment was accurate, as yet more sweat droplets beaded, dripped, and flowed in rivulets down the lightly creased, and bearded contours of my face…again pooling in the arches of brow en route!

There is a near endless stream of information and opinion (and sweat) I could espouse on the rising temperatures we are facing just here in our urbanised domain, but I’ll reign myself in here…and leave more thoughts for another day!

Courtesy of:

Sam Inglis MSc
Associate in Hong Kong
Odyssey Books & Maps

Concern for Kenya Cities

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Each day we walk, drive and board buses in silent fear. Who knows where the next siren will sound and lives lost. It is a scare that is killing our economy. Our breath is held by terror clip. I am left wondering who is a terrorist or why clear lives of innocent blood!

It is hard for families that have lost loved ones through this difficult cloud of terror. The world is full of things, good and bad. But my heart is not weary of the worst. For there is always an equal measure of goodness about to happen. Kenyans have built their economy with minimum natural resources. The dawn of oil in Turkana will not mean reversed era. We will not stop to hold up our national responsibility because of peace of our sisters and brothers in Somali.

The WestgatE terror incident united us – WeAreOne. Subsequent terrors at Thika road, Gikomba market, Likoni Church and many more  places will leave us standing strong. Unfortunately, some of us have opted war than peace to reign for Africa’s emerging economy.

Where is this driving us to? An article by CityLab recently found that insecurity on streets of Cairo contributed to more traffic congestion. Nairobi and other cities will they be forced to adopt home workers or cycling to work – at least safer.

It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.” – Epicurus quotes (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270)

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