Don’t demolish homes in Ngong Forest; instead, look for alternatives

What you need to know:

If it’s necessary to demolish a property, regardless of illegalities, the government should make arrangements for alternative shelter for residents and compensate for development.

 Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has said an underpass will be built to create an expanded dispersal area for wildlife. Once Ngong Forest is reclaimed by the national government, it will be linked to the Nairobi National Park.

Mr Tobiko also said that, save for the lawfully degazetted areas, all the other parcels, whether built up with structures for business or residential houses, will be reclaimed.

But I tend to differ. Demolition of the residential places will leave people homeless and businesses will incur huge losses, yet there is an alternative. This is a time of crisis. Humble workers took out loans to invest while following due process, yet the State wants to take down their homes. The available land can be used for the expansion of the dispersal area.

Regarding institutions allegedly on forest land — such as the National Police Service Dog Unit, Lang’ata Women’s Prison and St Mary’s Mission Hospital — the government can invest in them or claim shares, which can create funds for acquiring more forestry land. Demolishing will boomerang on the government; for instance, where will the prisoners at Lang’ata be held?

It can also reach a deal with the realtors and let the homes be. The many demolitions lately have thrown families into the cold. During the pandemic, people are asked to stay at home, yet they have no place to call home.

If it’s necessary to demolish a property, regardless of illegalities, the government should make arrangements for alternative shelter for residents and compensate for development.

Winfred Njeri, Nyeri