Riparian Land Control, Contestation and Its Implication to Conservation in Nairobi City

A Case Study of Nairobi, Mathare and Ngong’ Rivers

  • Silas M. Muketha University of Nairobi
Keywords: Conservation, Contestation, Land use and control, Riparian land


The riparian zone is perceived depending on how the concepts of land and land use are defined, used, and managed. When the riparian zone is seen in the context of land for development or ignored as unique land use in its own right, then it faces challenges of encroachment and degradation. The purpose of this paper is to assess riparian land control and contestation and its implication to conservation in Nairobi, Mathare, and Ngong’ rivers. The specific objectives include mapping out the river, establishing the number of structures on the river channel, at 6, 10, and 30 metres from the riverbank, and proposing strategies for appropriate riparian zone measures using riparian width and condition as the surrogates. The study used both secondary and primary methods of data collection. Secondary data was sourced from published journals, past research documents, and relevant books. Observation and key informant interview methods were used to collect primary data in the nine rivers traversing Nairobi City County, with greater attention given to Nairobi, Mathare, and Ngong’ rivers. The tool used for data collection was the Kobo collect tool. The study found out that land use and biophysical factors constitute a complexity of issues. A diversity of land uses heavily contests the riparian zone uses. These include; industrials and informal settlements on the Ngong’ River, and high, medium, and low-density residential land uses along Nairobi and Mathare rivers. The study further established that there is limited control of the riparian zone for better conservation. This has resulted in adverse implications on the environmental health of the riparian zone as well as adverse health and social outcomes to the urban residents. The study has, therefore, proposed strategies to address identified gaps, which include: to secure and regulate the use of the riparian zone, land use planning, land surveying of the zones, land registration, and environmental impact mitigation.