Activists want artifi cial grass out of Kibarani

People relax at the artificial turf at Kibarani reclamation area, Mombasa on Monday. ANDREW KASUKU
People relax at the artificial turf at Kibarani reclamation area, Mombasa on Monday. ANDREW KASUKU

The park is beautiful from a distance but environmentalists warn that Kibarani still puts lives at risk, defeating the reason for its reclamation.

The rehabilitation of the dumpsite was undertaken by the Mombasa county government. It was earmarked for a new recreational park. Artificial turf has been laid. But activists and tourism sector players say it is unhealthy and poisonous. The grass is mostly associated with modern stadiums.

Antelope and wildebeest statues made of bronze have also been erected at Kibarani. But of what significance are the animals to residents, yet they don’t identify with them? A dolphin would probably do.

During the beautification programme, Governor Hassan Joho urged residents to complement county efforts to ensure a clean environment. He called for responsible dumping of waste. Residents were happy and could not wait to use the park.

However, environmental activists now question what has become of the park. They want the statues and the turf removed. Indigenous trees and natural grass would be better alternatives, they say. Statues must also have meaning — something that resonates with residents.

Reached for comment, Environment executive Godfrey Nato said he would release a statement soon. He had yet to do so by press time.

Yesterday, Active Environmental Team said the artificial grass will weaken soil stability and fertility.

“Microorganisms will be killed. They will lack oxygen for their survival. These microorganisms need oxygen that is generated by natural vegetation, not artificial ones,” executive director Benson Wemali said.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohammed Hersi said artificial turf “is not creative for a park”.

“A park is meant to absorb heat, dust and rain. A park is meant to help a city breathe. A park is meant to absorb heat, dust and rain. A park is meant to help a city breathe. If it is a case of supplies, let the contractor do some serious work of natural restoration. Laying an artificial turf is simply being lazy,” Hersi posted on his Facebook page.

“We need to see water features to attract birdlife. When we have good growth of different species, you attract insects. When you attract insects, birds will follow, and if you give them appropriate trees to nest, then that becomes their home.”

He warned the county to forget about a booming tourism sector if it cannot create a healthy environment. People go to parks to enjoy nature and having artificial turf beats the purpose, Hersi said.

He questioned why the county should introduce statues of wild animals not found in the region.

“Giving us sculptures of wildebeests in Mombasa is a no-no. Marine life is facing serious dangers. Why not focus on endangered marine life?” he asked.

Medical doctor and environment enthusiast Muinga Chokwe said the artificial grass is poisonous and exposes residents and wildlife to health risks.

The grass accumulates heat, increases carbon dioxide, reduces humidity in the air and causes an imbalance in sun-rays reflections, he said.

“This will cause an urban heat island effect where all the heat will be reflected back to the environment due to insufficient vegetation to absorb it,” Chokwe said.

“Greenhouse gases will increase and be released into the atmosphere. Ultimately, there will be diminishing atmospheric oxygen levels. At this rate, you may need to walk with oxygen cylinders or concentrators to survive.”