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City Hall seeks land to expand Lang’ata Cemetery as space shortage bites

City Hall has applied to the National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri  for a 56-acre piece of land next to Lang’ata Cemetery for expansion of the burial ground that was declared full nearly two decades ago.

In a report tabled on Tuesday in the Nairobi County Assembly, the land and housing executive was quoted as saying that the process started last year.

“The Executive Committee Member on March 4 informed the (assembly committee) members that a piece of land, 56 acres adjacent to the Lang’ata Cemetery, had been identified for the expansion of the cemetery,” the report says.

“Communication was made to the chairman, National Land Commission on May 29, 2014 requesting for expedition of the acquisition.”

The report did not, however, indicate whether this is part of the 100-acre forest land adjacent to the cemetery that the defunct City Council of Nairobi was trying to acquire in 2012.

City Hall has been trying to acquire another piece of land since 1996 when the Lang’ata ground was declared full.

Attempts by Nairobi City Council to buy land for Sh283 million in Mavoko, Machakos County, failed over corrupt dealings that saw City Hall lose the cash.

City Hall officials are alleged to have inflated the cost of the land, hastened the release of the money, and paid the purported seller about a third of the quoted price before sharing the balance among themselves.

The land’s real value was placed at about Sh24 million but it was also found unsuitable due to its rocky surface.

Acquisition of the extra land will offer some reprieve to the Lang’ata Cemetery where old graves are being dug up to three feet, instead of the recommended six, to accommodate extra bodies.

The 150-acre graveyard handles more than 20 burials a day. It now houses more than 100,000 bodies— double the capacity it was planned to handle.

The lack of capacity has not escaped the attention of investors with Eastern Rift Sawmills, a private firm seeking government approval to set up a cemetery on a 63-acre piece of land in Nyandarua County’s Kinungi area, about 45 kilometres from Nairobi.

High prices and unavailability of sizable tracts of land in the capital have made it hard for City Hall to acquire an alternative site.

The problem has been worsened by a shift from traditional practices as a result of harsh economic conditions, with individuals choosing to bury their dead in Nairobi as opposed to transporting them upcountry.