Don’t relent on directive to given a fresh coat of paint on Nairobi buildings

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 18 Jul, 2019 09:00 | 3 mins read
Nairobi city. Photo/Courtesy
Chris Odwesso

For the second time in as many years, Nairobi county government this week directed that buildings in the capital city be given a fresh coat of paint. Last year, the call was largely ignored.  

The rare occasions when residents witness a burst of aesthetic frenzy to re-image the city; and this usually restricted to the Central Business District is when Nairobi is hosting an international forum or when a significant State visitor is expected in town. 

Few owners of commercial or residential buildings are even aware that laws actually require that they repaint their premises after every two years for maintenance and quality reasons.  And so due to cynical neglect, the once upon a time Green City in the Sun continue to suffer aesthetic and related deficits. 

Nairobi is a regional commercial hub, diplomatic hub and its the home of a UN agency charged with minding environmental matters. This city does not belong to  the roll of dishonour it has progressively fallen into, hence the need for strategic options to restore her standing.  

Critical as it is and with compliance with standards compromised, aesthetics are rarely prioritised in a city where the dictates of survival propel everyone to resort to shortcuts driven by a false sense of self-entitlement. Property owners should not see the need to paint as an exclusive cost factor. 

It’s tempting sometimes to sympathise with City Hall as it makes feeble attempts to live up to huge expectations. But governor Mike Sonko has a job to do and in any case, there are laws which are unambiguous on issues meant to give  the metropolis an image of order and habitability.   

Today thousands of city buildings need retouch with a fresh coat of paint, including residential property for which rents and rates are paid. It is commendable that the governor has finally, if belatedly, ordered that in conformity with by-laws, buildings within the city be repainted. 

The  paint  directive should not come across as driven by casual populism. City residents and visitors need to have hope that the move is, ultimately, part of an operational template that seeks to restore and enhance the city’s beauty.   

Every urban environment and specifically buildings from time to time require retouch since human activities, either deliberately or by inaction, plus other agents from the atmosphere—dust, smoke degrade and compromise their aesthetic appeal. 

A coat of paint helps guise stains and minor damages. It also stifles harmful molds and other growths. Last year, despite uproar from property owners demanding  to be listened to with regard to colours choice,  Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho directed that the coastal city be adorned in white and blue paints. It was done and actually ended up  enhancing the face of the city.   

To curtail willful defacing of urban structures,  perhaps there should be a law restricting or tightly regulating the indiscriminate plastering of campaign and other posters which leave swathes of urban centres virtually an eyesore. The posters contribute to making absolute mess of urban centres. 

The benefits of a spruced up Nairobi cannot be enumerated. There has been welcome attempts to improve  infrastructural layouts, more so roundabouts, rehabilitation of walking paths  which actually encourage a walking culture that has health benefits and planting grass  and trees along some roads. 

But City Hall must also reciprocate by ensuring an environment supportive of cleanliness is created and sustained. The county must invest  in the tools and resources and guarantee basic services like garbage collection and provision of water as its part of the  bargain. In part, the failure to make Nairobi attractive can be attributed to  the  prevailing weak regulatory regimen and blunt enforcement mechanisms. 

If the resoluteness shown in bringing down buildings in riparian land last year can be demonstrated in ensuring compliance with quality requirement, part of the hurdle will have been sorted out.  [email protected]

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