How a Kenyan cement company turned a barren landscape into an eden

It is hard to imagine that the lush forest of Haller Park, an ecological wonder in East Africa, was an arid wasteland just a few decades ago.

Spurred by modern urban society’s insatiable demand for cement, the binding element in both concrete and mortar, in the early 1950s Swiss company Cementia Holding built a factory on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city.

At two nearby quarries on the north coast, men and heavy machinery mined for limestone. They bulldozed the topsoil to expose hard rock, which was cut into multi-ton blocks—and then transported to the crushing and processing plant.

Over the years, cement production at the local quarries grew from 1.2 million tons annually to 25 million tons. But the once-fertile area soon became a barren landscape with brackish ground water.

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