As most of this blog’s readers are aware, last year, the Kenyan government embarked on its largest infrastructure investment so far, the construction of a Standard Guage Railway (SGR) from Mombasa to Nairobi, which has been extended to terminate in Naivasha.
There has been varied opinions on the economic viability of the project, there are also concerns on the environmental impact, specifically the effect the Naivasha phase will have on the Nairobi National Park. My interest in this matter is purely about preserving the park. Knowing what I know about land grabbers using infrastructure projects to section off land for themselves (see the Southern Bypass), I do not think the SGR should pass through the park. It is always best to err on the side of caution.
A number of organisations have come together under the umbrella of Save Nairobi National Park (SNNP), led by the Friends of the Nairobi National Park (FONNAP) to lobby the government to re-route the SGR away from the park. SNNP proposes that the railway line is re-routed from Konza, South of Kitengela, through the Isinya-Kajiado landscape. This route is the most cost effective because it goes through low-density settlement areas, avoids the national park and its environs and utilizes existing road and rail infrastructure and further develops Kajiado County.
SNNP has raised the following environmental concerns:
- The actual construction process itself and operating a railway through the Park is against the principle of enhancing protection, conservation and management of wildlife resources in the country as stipulated in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013. Further, the Act requires all development in national parks and reserves to be guided by a management plan.
- Nairobi National Park Management plan expired in 2010
- Current Spatial Plan issued by the National Land Commission (NLC) states that no construction should be undertaken in protected areas
Some legal procedures have also been flouted and have not been followed:
- Proper public consultation and stakeholder engagement was not carried out before the project was launched. The one forum that was held in Kajiado was on a short notice, it was in English and Kiswahili which locked out many local residents. There has not been a forum for Nairobi residents, or even users of the park that would be affected.
- Inadequacy of a comprehensive and inclusive environmental and social impact assessment. The report prepared and presented by NEMA was launched in October 2016, months after the project was launched. Ideally, this should be done before the project is launched, because the findings can and do affect its implementation. It seems the decision had been made and the assessment was just a formality.
- Lack of transparency on any feasibility studies conducted on the seven route options presented. The information in the public domain is incomplete and some costs have not been ascertained, and neither has the method of estimating these costs been disclosed.
- Contempt of National Environment Tribunal (NET) stop order on all activities related to SGR Phase 2A: meetings, construction and the launch of SGR have taken place
Considering that the Nairobi National Park is one of our most popular parks in the country, receiving over 135,000 visitors annually,it is our duty to speak out and demand that due process be followed in the implementation of the SGR. In addition to this, we need to consider the long term cost of this decision on the park, versus the short term cost of going with an alternative route.
Are we ready to lose the Nairobi National Park? The Southern Bypass already ate into the buffer that was set up to protect the park, and driving down that route, you can see housing estates that have cropped up on the left of the bypass. I think it is better to err on the side of caution and go with an option that leaves the park intact.
Share this post with your friends and followers to increase awareness of this. Hopefully, if there will be a public participation forum early this year, I shall update.