China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has defended itself against claims its construction work is degrading the environment.
The firm, which is constructing the standard gauge railway (SGR) line between Mombasa and Nairobi, termed criticism of its environmental record as “unfounded and uninformed”.
Julius Li, CRBC’s external relations and co-operation manager, said while a project of SGR’s size was bound to affect human, animal and plant life, the firm had put in place measures to minimise the environmental impact.
“No component of the project is done without the achievement of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates. This requires that we engage independent and professional environment assessment companies for all our site offices. Nothing is exempted from this mandatory standard treatment, regardless of its scope,” said Mr Li.
He added that CRBC’s adherence to best practices in environmental sensitivity was not just based on Kenyan laws or the details of the contract it signed with the Government.
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“We continuously adhere to the highest standards of environmental and wildlife protection, energy conservation and emission reduction. We do this because it is the right thing to do and based on our own values. Sustainability is at the centre of every project we undertake,” Li said.
“We are very much alive to the fact that the SGR corridor traverses some of Kenya’s most important conservation and human settlement sites. Where there are emerging issues, we proactively engage communities and concerned parties for amicable and mutually beneficial solutions.”
He added that some of the measures CRBC has put in place to reduce the negative effects of its construction work include the provision of migration corridors for animals within the Tsavo and Nairobi national parks.
One of the major ways this is being done is through construction of bridges with a height of between seven and 20 metres.
Small pits along the railway line have also been dug to harvest rainwater for animals’ consumption.
Other measures include forbidding the capture of wild animals at CRBC sites, minimising the use of land when building temporary facilities, and protecting the quality of water in rivers along the SGR route.
“Based on our philosophy of green construction, we ... refill pits in a timely manner and engage in active vegetation re-generation,” said Li.
Li’s reaction followed complaints raised in Taita Taveta County, where there has been concern that the SGR project was escalating human-animal conflict. Further, in Makueni County, CRBC has been accused of depleting water sources.