Proposal to construct Standard Gauge Railway through Nairobi National Park rejected

Members of Maasai community together with well wishers demonstrate at Langata Road against the decision of Kenya Wild Life Service (KWS) to allow the construction of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to pass through Nairobi National park on 16/9/16 [Photo:BEVERLYNE MUSILI/Standard]
A group of environmentalists on Friday held protests in Nairobi over a proposal to construct a section of the Standard Gauge Railway through Nairobi National Park.

The protesters, marching under the banner of the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and management later on presented a petition to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) hoping it will help change the government's preferred choice of having the rail cut through the park.

A move that the conservationists believe will spell death for the treasured park.

"Doing this will have both short term and long-term effects to not only the park but to the residents of Nairobi too," Kahindi Lekalhaile, one of the organisers of the demonstration said.

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He argues that if that section of the railway is constructed, animals will be displaced and thus increase cases of human-wildlife conflict.

"Why won't the government stick to the original route? They are treating the park like it is empty land available for acquisition," he says.

The Nairobi National Park is one of the few parks in the world located within a capital city. Over the recent past, a booming infrastructure and real estate market have seen increased pressure on land around the park as some conservationists argue the SGR would mean sure death to the park.

The protests were organized by the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management and sought to present a petition to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to compel the government to use alternative routes for the 6km SGR bridge that would pass over the Nairobi National Park.

KWS however says that before anything happens, the public will be consulted and an environmental impact assessment report will be done and made public.

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"We have been having these discussions before and we hope the public participates more once the EIA report is done," Paul Gathitu, KWS spokesperson told The Standard

Lekalhaile however says that the EIA report will be of little use since the government has made its preferences known.

"We already know that that report will be made to fit the intentions of the central government. It will do little to change what the executive has already set its mind on," he said.

The SGR project is meant to connect Mombasa to Malaba on the border with Uganda and continue onward to Kampala.

The SGR is a flagship project under the Kenya Vision 2030 development agenda. Upon conception, it was believed that the line will simplify transport operations across the borders and reduce travel costs, apart from benefiting the economies of Kenya and the neighbouring countries.

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"What are we as a country willing to give up for the sake of development? There are alternatives to the route preferred by the SGR engineers. Why aren't they looking at using alternative routes," Lekalhaile said.

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standard gauge railwayNairobi National Parkhuman-wildlife conflictkenya wildlife service