Today, on World Cities Day, a former informal waste dumping site in Addis Ababa will be re-opened as an urban park and a space where the local community can spend time in nature. Complementing a larger project along the Shega River, the Addis Ababa City Administration is already busy revamping more inner-city green spaces in Ethiopia’s capital.

“The community appreciates the site very much and its transformation surprised many.” ~ Eshetu Mulu, Technical Officer from the Beautification, Parks and Cemetary Development Agency of the Addis Ababa City Administration Ababa

The Ras Mekkonnen urban park in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, wasn’t always this lush. In fact, residents of the neighbourhood regularly used it as an informal dumping site. As more and more people discarded their waste here, the small river running through the site, a tributary of the Shega River,  became increasingly overgrown and inaccessible resulting in a derelict, run-down space in an otherwise vibrant urban area.

A recent collaboration between ICLEI Africa’s Urban Natural Assets: Rivers for Life project, UN-Habitat and the Addis Ababa City Administration breathed new life into the dilapidated site by focusing on the river.

Today, the newly revamped Ras Mekkonnen urban park is being officially re-opened to the community and visitors.

Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. A park built around a river

The Shega River meanders through the entire Addis Ababa, but since its conservation wasn’t a priority, it often went unnoticed and unappreciated. The first priority at Ras Mekkonnen was to uncover one of its tributaries and build gabions to keep erosion at bay. From here the work expanded to fix the old steps, the fountain, and the statue of Ras Mekkonnen – a former Ethiopian governor and military leader – that were all left to degrade as the space became an informal dumping site. A new playground, lawns, benches, trees, bins and a bike lane rounded off this now inviting space in the community.

Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Using the Minecraft video game to redesign urban spaces

It isn’t easy reimagining a space when it’s run down. But the video game, Minecraft, is changing this and getting the entire community involved in redesigning public open spaces. UN-Habitat and Addis Ababa City Administration held a four-day workshop where city officials and community stakeholders were able to think creatively and outside the constraints of the current site. They could focus on issues that were important to them, in this case, including the youth and women in the site.

By the end of the workshop 12 designs were submitted to the Addis Ababa City Administration and they formed the basis of the final design for the site.

“Women with children, and the youth nearby, have started coming to the park, and the greenery management and administration activity have provided job opportunities to those living in the area.” ~ Eshetu Mulu, Technical Officer from the Beautification, Parks and Cemetary Development Agency of the Addis Ababa City Administration Ababa

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Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Bigger plans for the Shega River

While the Ras Mekkonnen Park flourishes, the city is already working on the next project. It is using the Ras Mekkonnen project to inform the broader rehabilitation and revitalisation of the Shega River, thereby realising one of the city’s aims of creating a greener, more inclusive Addis.

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