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THREAT TO GREEN SPACES

How powerful minister Lotodo aided forest takeover

He told Parliament how he had excised several forests across the country

In Summary

• During the proclamation of Ngong Road Forest via proclamation No.44 of April 30, 1932, the Forest Area was 7,231.6 acres.

• By 1978 the remaining forest area was 3,283.27 acres, meaning 3,948.33 acres had been grabbed.

Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko with a map of the infrastructural support for the Green Zones II project at Miotoni, Ngong Road Forest, on June 19, 2020. Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko with a map of the infrastructural support for the Green Zones II project at Miotoni, Ngong Road Forest, on June 19, 2020. Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

Former Natural Resources  minister Francis Lotodo hived off 132 acres of Ngong Road Forest and allocated the area for social amenities, documents in our possession show.

The powerful minister in President Daniel Moi’s government issued a gazette notice dated March 23, 1998, to back up his move.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 4(1) of the Forest Act, the Minister for Natural Resources declares that the boundaries of Ngong Road Forest reserve be altered so as to exclude the area described in the schedule hereto,” he said.

Lotodo identified the area as  132 acres, known as LR No. 23256 within and adjourning the eastern boundary of Ngong Road forest reserve.

He was minister from 1998 until his death in November 2000.

He said the forest boundaries were delineated, edged red, on boundary plan No. 175/368, signed and sealed with the seal of Survey of Kenya, and deposited at the Survey records office.

The Ndung'u land report which investigated illegal/irregular allocation of public land flagged the alternation of the said forest land.

The report said there was no purpose whatsoever for the alteration of the forest boundary.

Further, it could not find the request for such alteration and the beneficiary and recommended its revocation.

“This was an excision for private gain,” the report noted.

During the proclamation of Ngong Road Forest via proclamation No.44 of April 30, 1932, the forest acreage was 7,231.6 .

By 1978 the remaining forest area was 3,283.27 acres, meaning 3,948.33 acres had been grabbed.

On April 28, 1998, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi raised the matter in Parliament and demanded answers from the minister.

“Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to ask the minister for Natural Resources on what grounds he issued legal notice No. 44 on 3rd April 1998, degazetting over 53.68 hectares on LR No. 23256 of Ngong Forest.” 

Kituyi continued: “In view of the environmental value of this forest to the public, could the minister cancel the said notice with immediate effect?”

Lotodo said the government wanted the land to be used for social amenities and that the laid down degazettement procedures had been adhered to.

“The government recognises the environmental benefits of Ngong Road forest and put this into consideration while making this decision. Therefore, the question of cancelling the legal notice does not arise,” Lotodo said, adding that he had degazetted various forests in the same manner.

He gave 3,809 acres from south Nandi forest for sale to the public, 100 acres of Kakamega forest for ASK, 43 acres from Kakamega forest for the expansion of Mukumu Girls High School, 100 acres from Upper Imenti forest for ASK show ground, 18 acres of Ngong Road forest for the expansion of Jamhuri International showground and 48 acres of Kitale forest for ASK.

The explanation  was received with anxiety by several MPs.

Kituyi noted: “The minister is supposed to be the custodian of forests. If he now stands before the House and tells us that 17 hectares of the forest are given to a school for expansion, which school is being given this size of land in this country today?”

He said the minister had in one month alone given notices degazetting 2,000 hectares of forest land.

He blamed the minister for handing out forests to private individuals.

Lotodo had told Parliament that the 53.68 hectares were for unnamed school.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Ngong Road forest was a rain catchment forest threatened from all directions such as Bomas of Kenya, Lang’ata cemetery, yet it was being hived off.

“The other side of Ngong Road is also being carved off. So, Ngong forest is in danger of being completely wiped out. The minister has given a reason of providing public amenities and he has gone on to mention other forests which he degazetted,” Odinga said.

He urged the ministry to erect a perimeter wall to curb future grabbing.

Kikuyu MP Paul Muite warned against any construction of buildings, saying the Kikuyu residents knew the beneficiaries.

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko wants all the grabbed land repossessed and further encroachment stopped.

The CS said he will intensify the war against land grabbers as the illegal allocations threaten its existence.

Tobiko said the forest, once reclaimed, will be linked up to the Nairobi National Park.

The CS said an underpass will be built to create an expanded dispersal area for wildlife.

"Except the areas that were lawfully degazetted, all the other parcels of this forest, whether people have titles or not, whether they have built structures for business or residential houses, will be reclaimed," Tobiko said.

More than 800 homes are sitting on the Ngong Road Forest land.

They include Park View, Sunvalley I and Sunvalley II, Kenya Medical Association, Lang'ata View Apartments and St Mary’s Hospital, Forest Edge Maisonettes.

In the illegally hived off area, a 40 by 60 feet plot goes for Sh12 million.

A hospital and a residential complex owned by the Kenya Medical Resuscitation Centre have been built on another 37 acres.

The area also has residential houses owned by individuals. It is still part of the gazetted forest.

 

- mwaniki fm