Nairobi now wants to swap the filled-up 100-acre Langata Cemetery land with a 67- acre Kenya forest land nearby to serve as the county’s new burial grounds.
The land being eyed for the swap is next to Langata cemetery and if the deal is successful it will be converted into a cemetery for Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
The deal is meant to bring to an end the frantic search for a new cemetery by City Hall given that Langata cemetery – which is the county’s official burial site – was declared full 20 years ago.
Speaking Friday, Nairobi Metropolitan Service Director General (NMS) Mohammed Badi said that his outfit had already begun negotiations with the Ministries of Environment and Land as well as the Kenya Forest Service over the swap.
“NMS is now considering swapping of cemetery land with another piece of land next to it or even buying it. We are still legally negotiating with them and want to give them alternative operating space as we take up their land to act as the burial site. We will ensure that we plant trees before we swap with them. We however don’t know what the outcome will be,” said Badi.
The major general brought to the fore that plans were also afoot to purchase the piece of land with money already having been set aside for that purpose. This will, however, be determined by the outcome of the negotiations.
In November 2020, NMS announced that it had set aside Sh150 million in the current financial year for the purchase of land in Mugumoini ward, Lang’ata Sub-county, to act as the county’s official burial ground.
Badi, however, explained that the headache for KFS in the swap deal was on how the forest service would achieve its target of 10 percent green cover.
“If we do get the land it will mean that we have to cut down the trees and as you know KFS does not like trees just being cut down anyhow. They are currently doing their best achieve the ten percent green cover in the capital,” stated the director-general.
He further revealed that his administration had earlier identified land to serve as the burial site but it was a bit far and had been seen as inconveniencing to have Nairobians travel kilometers for burials.
This is now the second time that the Nairobi county government has resorted to a land swap deal in its effort to acquire new cemetery land owing to land scarcity.
In the 2016/17 financial year, City Hall put in a similar request with KFS to swap Langata cemetery with the same piece of land adjacent to it to act as new cemetery land. The Forests authority however rejected the request.
Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests Charity Munyasya rejected the move saying that according to the Kenya Forest Act, for forest land to be converted to a cemetery or change user, the process had to be approved by Parliament, which had not happened.
“For anyone to convert forest land for any other purpose, it has to go through Parliament and the other relevant stakeholders involved,” she said.
She added that they would reject the plan to swap land because it was also not practical to plant trees in the cemetery, and it went against “our cultures and beliefs”.
Previous attempts by City Hall to identify alternative burial grounds have however led to loss of millions.
In the year 2009, the now-defunct Nairobi City Council paid Sh283 million for 48.5 acres in Mavoko, Machakos County to act as Nairobi’s official alternative burial grounds.
This however led to the hemorrhaging of millions of shillings by City Hall given the land had been valued at Sh24 million.
The land was also found unsuitable to play host to a burial site as it was too rocky thus throwing City Hall back to the drawing board.