KENYA’S GOLF COURSES: A threat to the Environment?
THE OTHER SIDE: The well kept lawns of the Royal Nairobi Golf Course perimeter fence separating the course with the Kibera Slums
In the developed world, the game of golf is being increasingly brought into focus due to environmental and social concerns.
Citizen groups in Asia have gone as far as sponsoring conferences on anti-golf course and resort development that attracted delegates from far and wide. One meeting concluded with the launch of a “Global Anti-Golf Movement” to coordinate regional opposition to such development.
Although not an olympic event as yet, the game of golf is now poised to be played in the forthcoming Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, not because it is an athletic event, but because its presence in the olympic roster will attract prominent US golfers led by Tiger Woods. That automatically translates to millions of dollars in sponsorship money for the IOC. In addition, IOC top executives themselves are ardent golfers.
A Japanese environmental activist estimated that an 18-hole golf course consumes enough water to meet the daily needs of 2,000 families – in first world terms. Obviously this figure would be much higher in third world terms. The same size course requires three to four tons of various germicides, herbicides and pesticides every year to be applied on the courses as substitutes for natural ecosystems so that the green and fairways remain ‘healthy’. These harmful chemicals normally find their way into Kenya’s water wells, rivers and lakes.
According to Buzzle.com, “Kenya is the world’s 10 best golfing secrets and has about 40 golf courses-more than any other African country except South Africa. And the balmy climate of Kenya could have been made specially for the game. In fact, Kenya has all the right ingredients to rival the Mediterranean as a winter golf destination.”
Kenya Golf Union member clubs number about 15 golf courses in the Nairobi area, plus twenty others scattered around the country, not counting the private 18-hole championship courses at the five star Windsor Golf & County Club, Safari Park Hotel or the world famous Mt. Kenya Safari Club. Many other private courses are to be found around the country in private ranches, farms and even military institutions. About a dozen or so courses in Kenya are 18-hole and classified as worthy of hosting championship events. In contrast, the country has just one or two FIFA class soccer stadiums, their present condition notwithstanding
On the social front, Kenyans will remember that poor residents of Mathare Valley slums were last week violently dispersed and tear-gassed by anti-riot police for peacefully protesting against the Nairobi Water Company’s decision to disconnect water supplies to the slums because most of these connections are considered ‘illegal’. Illegal water vending booths owners are known to conspire with corrupt NWC workers to fleece slum dwellers who pay more money for treated water than any other consumers in the country. And now someone is telling you that golf courses in the Nairobi region consume enough treated water each year to adequately carter for the entire slum for ages!
An amateur golfer, even by third world standards, has to invest in club membership fees, annual subscriptions and golfing equipment whose cost runs up to a couple hundred of thousands shillings. On the other hand, caddies (people who carry the golf clubs for those playing golf) survive on meagre earnings with absolutely no social security or fixed income. While Kenyan caddies earn just a hundred shillings or two per session, Steve Williams, who has been Tiger Woods’ official caddie, is one of the highest paid ‘sportsmen’ in the world.
Kenya’s business executives are trooping to golf clubs in large numbers. Coupled with that, the Ministry of Tourism has enhanced its campaigns for sports tourism, with Kenya’s world renowned golf-courses and year round good weather, the country will see demand for the development of more courses and resorts and ultimately increased environmental and social degradation.
Further reading: Golf Courses and the Environment