What is happening to our Jeevanjee Gardens a Century Later?
Donated to the residents of Nairobi in 1906 by Alibhai Mullah Jeevanjee, this 5 acre recreational park is one of few green spaces gracing Nairobi City. The park has on more than one occasion been faced with extinction when the then Nairobi City Council in collaboration with development partners planned in 1991, and later in 2007, to develop it by constructing in its place a multi- storey parking lot, bus terminus, markets, theatres and shopping malls (Zarina Patel ,“revitalising” Jeevanjee’s Gardens). These plans were shelved each time following objections raised by Zarina Patel (Jeevanjee’s grand-daughter), the late Prof. Wangari Maathai’s and the Green Belt Movement, and other activists. In 2007 some of these activists were arrested and remanded in jail for some days over this issue.
Over the years, The Late Prof.Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement and the public at large demonstrated on the value and need to protect and conserve public land such as parks (Uhuru Park, Jeevanjee Gardens, Mama Ngina- Naivasha etc), Forests (Ngong, Karura, Mau etc), and all the public lands such as Wetlands, Riparian reserves, cultural scared sites which are now protected by the Constitution of Kenya- 2010.
The Late Prof. Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement recognized that green space reduces ambient heat in cities, mitigates the effects of pollution and absorbs greenhouse gases. Urban parks act as simple but socially vital safety valves for ordinary men and women to release some of the pressures of daily life in the city-especially for those who find themselves living in treeless informal settlements or featureless tower blocks. The citizens also organize public gatherings and meeting in such spaces.
This is why in the late 1990s, Prof. Wangari Maathai and the public rallied to prevent individuals within the government from owning parts of Karura Forest in Nairobi. The threat was not only to the Karura ecosystem, known as Nairobi's lungs, but to the curtailing of Kenyans' liberties.
The Late Prof. Wangari Maathai understood that for the young and old, rich and poor, green spaces offered a respite from the sprawling housing estates and commercial buildings that had chewed up former grassland and forest. Such green spaces as Jeevanjee Garden continue to be an invaluable haven in the heart of downtown Nairobi.
This is why we are all committed to make sure that open green spaces are protected and accessible to all persons in the society. Introduction of commercial structures in the park will only create an opportunity for greedy selfish individuals to privatize and manipulate the public for their own gain.
The county government of Nairobi must respect the wish of the people of Kenya “No structures in Jeevanjee Gardens”.