Grabbing of public land and greedy allocations have been slowly distorting land use in Meru, leaving the county government without sufficient space for public amenities.
Investigations by the Nation, which are backed by a recent Meru County Land Bank Committee report, indicate the extent of the land crisis in the county.
The committee researched on the state of public land in Meru, following an outcry over grabbing.
The findings of the committee show that while large parcels of land have been grabbed by private individuals, several others are already under use.
The Nation also established that large pieces of land either set aside for public use or actually being used by the public, had been transferred to private ownership and documents issued.
Further, many of the said owners are yet to alienate and develop the land, but it is not available for public amenities either.
The most affected areas are Mwendantu, Kanu grounds, Salama-Mjini, Kambakia, Kongoacheke, areas near Kinoru Stadium and Makutano.
According to the committee’s findings, at least 230 parcels measuring 1,735 acres of public land in Meru have been grabbed. A further 590 undocumented plots — whose acreage has not been established — are suspected to have been grabbed, while 1,852 acres have been encroached on by individuals who are using the land for farming and illegally leasing to third parties.
Those who have leased the land illegally were receiving money, denying the county revenue, the team, which presented its report to Governor Kiraitu Murungi last week, said.
Committee chairman Rogers Ruthugua said they had combed the entire county in the past two years, identifying and documenting public land that might have been grabbed.
“We faced challenges from land grabbers who also issued threats but we ensured we discharged our mandate,” he added.
The committee recommended that all grabbed land should be repossessed and parcels that had been identified secured by fencing and entering the data into the county GIS land system.
“Land officials should also stop demarcating hills, valleys, swamps and gazette areas with fragile ecosystems to protect them from grabbing,” the report read.
So bad has the land grabbing been especially in Meru Municipality that MCA Elias Murega in 2018 demanded that the Lands CEC provides a list of all public plots.
Mr Murungi said his administration would study the report and act on the recommendations, adding that land grabbers would be dealt with.
“The exercise recorded wide-ranging findings relating to disputes, grabbed and land that has been encroached on,” the governor said when he received the report at the county headquarters.
“When we set up this committee, we wanted to have an official record of all public land. With this report, I now declare total war on grabbers of public land. We will ensure the land is repossessed and secured,” he added.
At the same time, Mr Murungi warned owners of plots in Meru town that have remained undeveloped for several years that they will have to surrender them to the county for reallocation.
The governor said plots were allocated for a purpose and asked owners to either develop or surrender them, adding that failure to construct buildings according to plans had led to sluggish development in the town.
“We cannot allow people to own plots and keep them idle for over 10 years. We will adopt a system where, if a plot is not developed within a given period of time, the owners will lose their titles and the plot allocated to those who can develop, them” he said.
The county Lands department said it was carrying out an audit of buildings in the town to establish those that are uninhabitable with a view to recommending their demolition.
The town has a high number of buildings that are in a deplorable condition, with some going unpainted for several years and have become an eyesore.
Lands, Housing and Physical Planning CEC Jeremiah Lenya said a report will be compiled after the audit, which will make recommendations on how refurbishment of buildings will be carried out.
“It is clear that some of the structures are an eyesore, which means they will have to be pulled down.’’ he said.