Request to KURA, KPLC and NCC to save heritage trees along Ring Road Parklands in Nairobi
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Road construction being carried out by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) to expand Ring Road Parklands threatens to cut decades old heritage trees found along the stretch between 9 West and The Oval in Westlands, Nairobi. In spite of a petition signed by local residents, numerous attempts by the community to engage with the concerned authorities, and a notice from Kenya Forest Service (KFS) recommending that the trees be preserved, crosses have been marked on the trees and KURA intends to go ahead with the cutting. This petition calls on KURA to retain the trees during the on-going road work.
The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) is currently implementing road improvements along Ring Road Parklands in Westlands. The project involves a total construction width of 26 m, plus an additional 1 m working area on either side of the road. The typical road width is 31 m, with some sections as wide as 32 m. The European Union-funded project aims to improve conditions for non-motorised transport (NMT) users and enhance connectivity in the area.
Along the block between 9 West and The Oval, there are several large heritage trees at the edge of the road. As per current plans, the street trees will not be retained, nor does the design include provision for new trees. The only planned landscaping elements are grass and small shrubs, which will not provide shade for pedestrians.
A survey of the site confirmed that the trees will not conflict with the alignment of the proposed footpaths. However, as part of the project, new poles for Kenya Power (KPLC) lines have been installed along the road, near the edge of the road. In this position, the power line will come within 1.5 m of the heritage trees. Per KPLC safety regulations, a buffer of at least 3 m should be provided between tree trunks and the power lines.
In order to meet the safety requirements of the high voltage line while retaining the trees, a simple design solution would involve shifting the power poles to the other side of the footpath, between the footpath and open drain. Such an arrangement would make it possible to retain the trees, provide a buffer around the the high voltage line, and minimize conflicts with pedestrian movements. Another option would be to shift the road alignment to the northwest side of the public right-of-way, thereby creating more space on the southeast side for the trees.
Preserving Nairobi’s tree canopy
Trees play a critical role in improving the comfort and aesthetics of streets and public spaces in Nairobi County. They provide shade for pedestrians and cyclists, capture harmful air pollutants, mitigate the urban heat island effect, and are central to Nairobi’s identity as the “Green City in the Sun.” To enhance the value of the city’s tree canopy, road improvement projects must seek to preserve existing street trees—particularly heritage trees—and incorporate provisions for new street trees at regular intervals.
Wanton destruction of the city’s tree canopy is unfortunately becoming the norm in road projects. On Ngong Road, where new traffic lanes and footpaths will occupy only around 30 metres of the road, trees were cleared from the entire 60 metre right-of-way, even from areas that will remain as open space under the new designs. It is understandable that development project may sometimes necessitate the removal of trees—particularly trees that fall within driving lanes. However, the blanket removal of all trees within the road reserve is unnecessary. As cities around the world have shown, creative street design can provide space for existing trees in recognition of their important functional and aesthetic value.
Over the past month and a half, local residents have engaged in numerous discussions with KURA, KPLC, and the Nairobi City County Government (NCCG), requesting the authorities to retain the existing heritage trees in the design for Ring Rd Parklands. As a resident in the area and regular user of the road, I request that you join in signing this petition calling on KURA to stop the unnecessary felling of trees along Ring Road Parklands and in Nairobi as a whole.
- Kenya Urban Roads Authority
- Nairobi City County
- Kenya Power and Lighting Company
Now more than ever, Nairobi needs a healthy tree canopy to provide shade for our streets and reduce temperatures in the city. I kindly request the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) to incorporate adjustments in the design for Ring Road Parklands to retain the existing heritage trees. Retaining the trees will offer the following benefits:
-The trees are directly adjacent to the future footpaths that will be constructed as part of the project, and the shade that they provide will make it comfortable for people to walk, cycle, or gather for social activities.
- The trees help reduce the urban heat island effect, keeping the city cool and providing habitat for birds.
- The heritage trees have minimal maintenance needs, thereby saving energy and money.
- One of the proposed trees, a mugumo tree, is of religious significance.
- Retention of the trees is consistent with Non-Motorised Transport Policy for Nairobi, which calls for street trees to be provided “at frequent intervals” along city streets.
The trees in question are at the very edge of the road and fall primarily on private land. There is enough space to build the full road as per KURA’s design, while also accommodating power lines owned by Kenya Power (KPLC) that run through the site. The request to save the trees is also supported by Kenya Forest Service (KFS), which issued a letter on 28 Apr 2017 calling for design solutions to preserve the trees.
Many cities around the world have good examples of roads that have been designed to accommodate existing trees by adjusting the detailing of footpaths, green areas, on-street parking, and other street elements around them. This type of design is possible for Ring Road Parklands as well.
I kindly request KURA, along with Kenya Power, Nairobi City County, National Environment Management Authority, and KFS, to take immediate action to save the heritage trees and design solutions can preserve the trees while also incorporating essential services such as power lines.
I look forward to working with KURA to identify a solution to save the heritage trees along Ring Road Parklands and in future projects in Kenya.
Thank you for your consideration.
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