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How construction professionals have failed Nairobi

Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 05:00 | By
Workers at the construction site of the Ruiru Affordable Housing project, Kiambu. PHOTO/Print
Workers at the construction site of the Ruiru Affordable Housing project, Kiambu. PHOTO/Print

Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon, one of the greatest French polymaths, asked a question that we must never tire to ponder over.

He asked: “Are the worst enemies of society those who attack it or those who do not even give themselves the trouble of defending it?” I have the answer; it is the latter.

The decay of our society and the emboldening of impunity have been perpetuated more by those who refuse to defend it.  Those who believe it is not in their place to get entangled in certain societal matters because it doesn’t affect them.

If you are keen enough, you won’t miss to notice that we have lost our sense of outrage, our sense anger and our grief about what is happening in our country and the atrocities being committed in Nairobi’s built environment.

The growth of any city cannot be through a reckless path of unplanned, uncoordinated and unregulated developments. Most Nairobians are concerned, and rightfully so, about the exacerbation of sporadic developments across the city.

But I refuse to be persuaded by the helpless demeanour they depict on this subject. We have accepted the limitation on our actions and seemingly, too, accepted the restrictions on our thinking.

The loud silence of construction professionals in the ongoing debate on Nairobi development continues to baffle many. And it is not just their silence. There are many construction professionals who are collaborating with the greedy developers.

These questionable developments certainly have architectural designs. They have structural drawings and certainly some professionals’ license are being used to acquire the questionable statutory licenses.

Who are these professionals? Who are these professionals engaged in developments without the required rules; developments on road and riparian reserves; developments working past the legal times set in law and some without even statutory approvals? Are they foreigners? Obviously not.

We have some rogue construction professionals prostituting their services to the highest bidder. But that probably isn’t something new. In every sector, you cannot miss some bad eggs. What we can agree is new and probably alarming is the silence of the ‘good’ professionals; silence of the professional regulatory bodies and associations.

Where are the professional regulatory bodies and associations? When their members are engaged in these illegalities, shouldn’t they be the first to speak and defend the public good?

Across most parts of the city, you can feel the bitter wailing of the residents; be it in Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Parklands, Pangani, South C, Karen, name it.

Yet construction professionals are silent while some of the greatest atrocities continue at the cheer of their colleagues.

Think about it. Nairobi residents are funding, through their taxes, construction professional regulatory bodies to issue licenses to some professionals who in turn collude with certain developers to bring them pain and suffering. I have genuinely pondered over this paradox in the last few months. It is a self-inflicting pain. It needs to stop.

I understand that raising concerns on the city’s reckless development trajectory gets you labelled as a selfish anti-progress refusenik. But construction professionals cannot sit on the proverbial fence. They must take sides in this debate of bringing sensible development in Nairobi.

Perhaps Luther put is best: “There comes a time when silence is a betrayal.”

Construction professionals must deeply care when our biodiversity is being sacrificed for luxury developments. They must care to demand that our environment be worked, not destroyed. This is not just about their interest alone, this more about the guardianship of the next generation’s future; the future biodiversity and environment.

The silence must stop! We owe it to the next generation to call out rogue colleagues who, out of greed, are selling their licenses at market price. As construction professionals, we must begin to boldly sanction our colleagues engaged in illegalities.

—The writer is a construction project manager and author

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