After weeks of public uproar, the government of Kenya has dropped plan to destroy part of the iconic Uhuru Park to make way for the construction of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)-Westlands Expressway. The Kenya National Highways Authority had served notice 1.3 acres of the park would be lost to the road construction.
The 12.9 hectare recreational park was opened to the general public on 23 May 1969. The park has an artificial lake and other national monuments including an assembly ground for skateboarding competitions during weekends.
The decision to touch the park for a four-lane dual carriageway sparked a huge public outcry, bringing to mind a similar protest in 1989 when the likes of environmentalist and literary icon Wangari Maathai protested attempts to construct a 60-storey Kenya Times Media Trust business complex.
Several Kenyans saw the decision to destroy part of the Uhuru Park for the expressway as an insult to Maathai – a Nobel Peace Laureate – who fought with others to preserve it.
On Wednesday, Kenya transport minister James Macharia announced the concerns of Kenyans have been considered by the government therefore the Uhuru Park will remain untouched.
“I wish to bring to the attention of the Public that the design of the Expressway has now been optimised to ensure that no land will be taken from Uhuru Park,” Macharia said in a statement.
According to Nairobi News, an estimated 25,000 motorists are expected to move to the tolled express highway when completed.