Residents protest at subdivision of marshland

Scores of residents of Ngangarithi in Nyeri town on Tuesday demonstrated to protest the allocation of the wetland in their area to real estate developers.

The residents, most of them elderly women who do peasant farming in the marshes, said the allocations by the Nyeri County Government not only threatened the wetland ecosystem but also their livelihoods as most of them depended on the marshes for food and drinking water.

Already, an evangelical church and residential houses have been built on the marsh that forms part of the headwaters of River Githwariga, one of the tributaries of the River Tana.

Also under threat are several fishponds belonging to the residents established with the help of the national government as a means of establishing sustainable livelihoods under the Economic Stimulus Program.

The villagers erected a billboard at the site that bears a commitment from the National Environment Management Agency that it would never approve the construction of houses on the land, a caution to prospective land buyers that they may buy plots there but the authorities would never allow them to develop them.

They also uprooted some of the beacons erected to demarcate the land.

A former Director of NEMA, Patrick Ngatia, who is also a candidate for the Nyeri Parliamentary seat, said it was foolish for anyone to expect to build residential houses on the river since the soils in the marsh were very unstable.

He challenged Nyeri Governor, Samuel Wamathai and outgoing Nyeri MP, Esther Murugi to use their powers to have any allocation in the marsh nullified for the good of the environment and the people who lived around the mashes.

Several old women who grow arrowroots, kale, sugarcane and fodder for their animals on the land said they inherited the pieces of land from their grandmothers and that the shambas were their only source of livelihood.

One of the fish farmers, Joseph Kariuki, 75, said he was worried that the developments would wipe out his only source of income.

Source: Kenya News Agency