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WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

Why we need to preserve urban greenspaces

It shouldn't take a pandemic for us to realise how essential nature is.

In Summary
  • If we didn't have these spaces, where would Nairobians spend their leisure time and kill boredom as they practise social distancing?
  • While laws and policies play a crucial role, personal resolve is also necessary. Without willpower, then the rules will be less impactful.
A water fall inside Karura Forest.
A water fall inside Karura Forest.
Image: COURTESY

'Time for Nature' is this year’s World Environment Day theme. This is a reminder that it is time to act to salvage the degraded environment, preserve and protect wildlife, and appreciate nature.

Ordinarily, World Environment Day would be celebrated in parks, sanctuaries, farms, forests and gardens, among others, with various activities that enrich the planet. This year is unique and a wake-up call to realise the significance of greenspaces in cities and towns.

Covid-19 came at a time when the world least expected. It halted every activity and plans; reduced events to virtual.

 

Curfews, cessation of movement, lockdowns and restriction to access certain areas left most urban dwellers, especially in Nairobi, to find solace, strength, and revitalise in the few available parks, gardens and forests.

For a while, Karura Forest, Arboretum, Ngong Forest, and the Nairobi National Park became the main focus, often crowded, forcing the enactment of stricter measures.

At a glance, the overall condition was not appealing because of the possibility of spreading the virus and exerting a lot of pressure on those resources. However, it was an indication of how important greenspaces are during these times.

If we didn't have these spaces, where would Nairobians spend their leisure time and kill boredom as they practise social distancing?

Adequate protection and preservation of greenspaces is essential; thus, developing laws and policies that cushion them from degradation, human encroachment and plastic pollution is fundamental.

On a positive note, the ban on plastic bags reduced the amount of plastic pollution in our greenspaces.

But single-use plastics are still a nightmare; straws and plastic bottles still abound. With the ban on single-use plastics in greenspaces scheduled to officially take effect this month, there is hope that our greenspaces will breathe again.

National laws, however, may not be enough. Each park, forest or garden needs its own policies in line with the contents it hosts and services it offers.

No single-use plastic water bottle is allowed in Karura Forest, for instance. By placing a lot of emphasis on this policy, you will hardly see a plastic bottle lying about carelessly. Such laws are missing in parks such as Oloolua and Arboretum, which attract quite a large number of people picnicking, walking or jogging, hence, the reason plastic bottles are thrown along the trails.

While there are litter bins and signs cautioning people from littering, these do not deter visitors. This is the reason single-use plastics should be disallowed inside parks.

Action for nature means taking all measures humanly possible to ensure greenspaces remain intact to serve present and future generations. Penalising those breaching this law might serve as a good lesson.

While laws and policies play a crucial role, personal resolve is also necessary. Without willpower, then the rules will be less impactful.

Knowing that the greenspaces serve the social, psychological and physical needs of humans, preserving and protecting them should be everybody’s mandate.

It should not take another epidemic or pandemic like Covid-19 for us to realise how essential nature is to our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, during this time for nature, act for the environment, act for climate, act for the planet.

Happy World Environment Day 2020.

Environmental scientist and consultant. [email protected] or [email protected]