WORK ON SOUTHERN BYPASS CONTINUES INSPITE OF TRIBUNAL RULING
(Posted 22nd July 2013)
When Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the East African Wildlife Society and ANEW carried the day a few weeks ago, as the tribunal upheld their legal challenge that the EIA for the section of the planned bypass cutting across Nairobi National Park land was invalid, conservationists celebrated. Now however, the facts on the ground support suggestions that the work is going ahead nevertheless along the sections before the bypass would enter the park at the Ole Sereni Hotel and beyond the Carnivore Restaurant, where it will leave the park and connect with road works and flyovers already in place.
One source, reluctantly and on condition of strict anonymity, in fact said that Kenya Wildlife Service will not oppose the required degazetting of the section of the park, should the case go, as legally required, before parliament. The organization, as reported here before, has been promised a significant amount of cash to purchase additional land on the other side of the park where they would like to expand the boundaries, in exchange for compliance and looking the other way. ‘Look at it as a trade off, the lesser of two evils. I know that many corporate organizations helped to grow trees along the park boundary over the past years. The spend time and effort and that fledgling forest will of course be cut down. That is discouraging for everyone who planted, gave money and did their civic duty and give community support. But the government will not budge. They want the bypass to be open and ready as soon as possible. They might go to parliament for the formal act of degazetting but may also just go ahead with the work at the same time. There is no telling what they will do. Traffic through Nairobi is a nightmare every day and they will have popular support when pushing this project ahead. Paula and her partners are right though. If the government is allowed to get away with such impunity, who says they will not cut through sections of the Nakuru National Park for the planned bypass of Nakuru town? The new railway line planned from Mombasa to Nairobi has to go through the Tsavo Park. Once they have a precedent, they will use it in future cases elsewhere. Who says that in years to come, maybe in a decade or more, or less, the same government will not attempt to degazette more Nairobi national park land for another new railway, or a new posh housing estate. Where money can be made, be sure we Kenyans find a way to make it. There could be billions at stake in construction and land values and my best guess is, if it cannot be stopped now, going if necessary to the highest court and then to the East African Court of Justice, the flood gates will open’.
The park section is approximately 5 kilometres long, connecting two crucial links to allow traffic from Mombasa to avoid downtown Nairobi when heading for the Rift Valley towns of Naivasha, Nakuru and beyond to Kisumu, Eldoret and the border with Uganda, and with the project cost at well over 17 billion Kenya Shillings, and a large amount of that already spent on actual road and bridge construction, there will be no let up from government to push ahead with the project, as some say by hook or crook.
Should the ruling by the National Environmental Tribunal be ignored, it would amount to contempt of court and immediately prompt applications to the Kenyan High Court to enforce the earlier ruling, but only time will tell where this issue is heading and how it plays out in the end. Watch this space to be sure to get the latest updates.