Environmentalist Elizabeth Wathuti has explained why a tree that was planted in memory of late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai was cut down.

This is after a picture of the stump of the tree, which had been dedicated in her memory in 2011, was circulated in social media on February 23.

The picture shows the tree’s stump next to a plaque inscribed with the name Maathai and the tree planter’s name which was blurred.

The person who shared the picture neither identified the location where the tree had been planted nor the person responsible for cutting it down.

"When I saw the images on social media I became sad and heartbroken. I left my place of work with a mission to replace the tree that was cut down," she said.

Speaking to the Star on Wednesday, Wathuti said she decided to get all leads to where the tree stump was, just to get to the root cause of the problem.

"I got almost 10 leads but at least I was lucky to find out that the tree stump was near City Park," she said.

Declining to name the institution that cut the tree, Wathuti gave reasons to why the institution was forced to put down the 'Maathai tree'.

1901014 - Why Wangari Maathai tree was cut down

The tree that was dedicated to Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai who died in 2011. /LIZ WATHUTI

"I was told that a gardener was passing near the area accompanied by a friend when they heard a strange sound," she said.

The gardener, Steve, told Wathuti that he saw the picture trending on social media which 'really disturbed' him.

"This is a path I use every single day, and it was around five minutes to 2:00 pm when myself and a colleague noticed a crackling sound when we were just passing here, you know like when firewood is burning the way it cracks," he said.

"We were wondering where that sound was coming from because initially, we thought it was coming from the forest, but we noticed it was actually this tree which was splitting into two laterally."

He added, "It’s a busy path and you can imagine the risk especially with the little children. I took photos and informed the administration.”

Steve said he was then forced to send a WhatsApp message on January 25 at 1:55pm about the tree.

"When the guys involved got my message, that path was closed on both ways. However, when we were still deliberating on what to do next, one half of that tree came all the way down and actually damaged the water treatment plant," he said.

He said the remaining half was also posing a risk to the children as it also appeared weak from the top branches and that’s why it also had to come down.

"Had it been a Wednesday, Thursday, or Tuesday, the story would be different," he added.

Wathuti further told the Star that she was given a WhatsApp message that was sent to one of the institutions’ administrators on January 25, 2019, at 1:55 pm as per the screenshot.

"The message said that the tree behind the pool right at the Mathaai memorial was splitting into two," she said adding that, "It’s a huge risk as kids use that route to the pool and cricket field.”

After further research, Wathuti and her colleague found out that the tree had been planted a long time ago but the institution saw it right to dedicate it in memory of the late Maathai in the year 2011.

1901013 - Why Wangari Maathai tree was cut down

An administrator explains the tree planting culture at the institution. /LIZ WATHUTI

"This dismisses claims that the photo was a photoshop based on the radius of the stump and the dated year (2011) on the plaque," she said.

One of the institution’s administrator said the reason the stump was still there is because they believe the tree will actually re-sprout.

“We wanted to remove the stump for replanting but we were advised by our gardeners that the tree will actually re-sprout and grow again since it’s an umbrella tree," he said.

The institution has planted eight tree seedlings along the same line where the tree was cut as a replacement for the same.

Wathuti said that as part of her job, she was going to take 20 tree seedlings to be planted alongside the stump.

"The institution said it was okay for me to bring the seedlings and that they will give me a place to plant them," she said.

"Maathai's legacy reigns on and it's my hope that every individual will do the best they can to help conserve the environment for our sake and the sake of the future generations to come. We need nature."

Maathai, who died in 2011, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She was the first East African woman to hold a doctorate degree.

She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which has planted 51 million trees and empowered African women by helping them develop new skills and educate themselves.

Read: Plant a Tree for Wangari Maathai

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