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NMS seeks alternative burial site in Nairobi

Nairobi residents could have to soon travel outside the capital to bury their loved ones.

This as the Nairobi Metropolitan Services’ (NMS) search for a new cemetery land within Nairobi to replace the Lang’ata cemetery increasingly proves futile.

NMS has been in negotiations with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) since last year November to have the government agency excise part of its forest adjacent to Langata cemetery to serve as a new burial ground.

Towards this, the Major General Mohamed Badi-led administration had even set aside a budget of Sh150 million in the current financial year towards the undertaking to get the 67-acre land.

Despite negotiations still ongoing, Badi now says KFS appears not keen to lose part of its forest to serve as a burial site, as will decrease tree coverage and green spaces in Nairobi.

However, he disclosed should the negotiations fail then the county has a 10-acre land along Kangundo Road that can act as an alternative site in a worst-case scenario.

“If KFS doesn’t come on board we have land available which is under our control. We have a standby area towards Kangundo road which is over 10 acres. So If we decided to utilize the land, people will be forced to travel 15 kilometers outside Nairobi,” said Badi.

Nonetheless, the NMS boss pointed out that they have not fully settled on the Kangundo land because of its location as it would be an extra burden for those intending to bury their loved ones.

“The biggest challenge with KFS is they don’t want to decrease their tree cover and as such, it will be very difficult to convince KFS,” he said.

In 2017, City Hall failed in its attempts to convince KFS to part with the forest land near the Langa’ata cemetery with the agency rejecting the request to swap the filled-up cemetery with the forest land.

The 100-acre Lang’ata cemetery has been full for 20 years.

This has forced families to bury their loved ones in shallow graves, failing to meet the recommended six feet depth.

Appeals by City Hall for residents to embrace cremation have fallen on deaf ears with the numbers of burials rising as cremations dip.

This forced City Hall in 2019 to warn residents that they could be forced to transport their loved ones to rural homes for burial if they do not embrace cremation.

Kenya has only 18 cremation centres which are mainly used by people of Asian origin.

The best-known crematoriums are in Nairobi including Lang’ata, Hindu, and Kariokor crematoriums.

Lang’ata cemetery is divided between a “permanent” and “temporary” section with most poor city residents choosing to bury their family members in a temporary grave which get flattened every five years to make room for more bodies.

Permanent graves for adults at Lang’ata cost Sh30,000, Sh4,000 for children and Sh2,000 for infants. Non-city residents part with Sh40,000.

It has been a long journey to have an alternative graveyard in Nairobi with the search dating back more than 10 years ago.

In 2009, the defunct Nairobi City Council lost Sh283 million in a 48.5-acre cemetery deal in Mavoko whose actual value was just Sh24 million.

The saga saw a number of senior national government and county council officers implicated in the scandal with the late John Gakuo and former local government Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui charged and subsequently jailed.

In the financial year ending June 30, 2017, City Hall set aside Sh221 million for the purchase of a 120-acre land for burial in Kitengela, Kajiado County.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, City Hall again set aside Sh200 million for the acquisition of an extra 200 acres of land to serve as public cemetery but nothing came out of the plan.