NEMA blamed for shoddy job over SGR Environmental Study


(Posted 07th January 2017)

Kenya’s conservation fraternity is trying to come to terms with what has been described as NEMA’s worst decision yet, when the organization bent over and gave the thumbs up for the Kenyan government’s plan to cut the Nairobi National Park in half.
Outraged conservationists in fact flooded this correspondent’s inboxes with angry and at times disheartened messages, one of them not mincing words when he wrote: ‘The president can now drop the charade that he has conservation in mind. He in fact is dismantling the conservation history and legacy of his late father when it comes to the national park. There are alarming reports of elephant climbing the raised railway line in Tsavo and when trains begin to run, imagine a collision at high speed with a passenger train. Tsavo is a big park and has historically been cut in half by the highway between Mombasa and Nairobi and the railway which is 117 years old now. But in those years there have been many collisions with wildlife and trains have been derailed. The same happened on the road of course and I have seen accidents on that highway when drivers at high speed ran into crossing elephant, zebras and other game. Nairobi was the litmus test for this government when it comes to conservation but like their Chinese backers they chose money and short lived and short sighted commercial gains over conservation. We shall see what next steps to take but be sure this is heading to the environmental tribunal and even to court. We cannot allow Kenya’s national heritage to be sacrificed over cost reasons. There are well researched alternate routes available, as you have also pointed out in the past in your articles, which would completely bypass the national park.
What next, a piece of Nakuru National Park carved out for a new bypass highway? Shimba Hills National Park being scrapped for more mining and a huge top end residential and leisure development? This is an environmental crime of the highest order and sadly has this government and the president stopped at nothing to intimidate and foulmouth opponents of this mad routing through the park‘.
Wrote Wildlife Direct, headed by none other than multiple conservation award winner Dr. Paula Kahumbu, in a letter shared with this correspondent:

Start quote:

WildlifeDirect Expresses dismay at decision to route SGR through Nairobi National Park

Nairobi-January 6, 2017: WildlifeDirect express deep dismay at the decision by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to grant approval for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to pass through the Nairobi National park, despite overwhelming public opposition. The government has promised that the railway will not impede wildlife migrations, and that funds will be made available to improve the status of this and other parks in the country, while protecting the people who live adjacent to parks.

On December 13, 2016, NEMA issued a license giving Kenya Railways the go-ahead to construct SGR Phase 2A that will pass through the middle of Nairobi National Park on an elevated bridge.

The Park is Kenya’s oldest protected natural area and the only National Park in the world located within a major city. It contains more biodiversity than many entire countries and is a sanctuary of global significance for some endangered species, notably the black rhinoceros. The Park is also a refuge from city life that provides incalculable benefits for millions of Nairobi residents, as well as for tourists and business visitors from all over the world.

On October 27, 2016 WildlifeDirect’s convened a forum bringing together stakeholders from many sectors, who were unanimous in calling on Kenya Railways to search for an alternative solution that would preserve the integrity of the Park. These efforts have fallen on deaf ears and the Park now faces an uncertain future.

The decision to route the railway through the Park not only goes against public opinion, but it also ignores the advice of numerous scientific experts who have warned of its irreversible consequences. Moreover it sets a very dangerous precedent for other Protected Areas in Kenya threatened by infrastructure projects, mining, and unregulated urban and agricultural expansion. It especially undermines the budding conservancy movement in which hundreds of Kenyans have invested their land in conservation.

To ensure that the railway has minimal impact, WildlifeDirect will be monitoring compliance on all the conditions of the license and laws of Kenya. Speaking on phone from London, Dr. Paula Kahumbu said, “While we acknowledge that infrastructure development is urgently required in Kenya, WildlifeDirect is concerned that it greatly amplifies threats to wildlife. We commit to supporting the efforts of the Government of Kenya and the Kenya Railways to ensure that they deliver in their promise of ensuring minimal environmental degradation impact of the Park, while improving the conservation status of wildlife across Kenya.”

In April 2016, Kenya’s conservation reputation received a boost when President Uhuru Kenyatta set aflame 105 tonnes of ivory. This historic event sent out a clear message that protecting our national heritage is more important than short-term economic gain.

At this time of rapid economic growth for Africa, the challenge of protecting wildlife will increasingly require a well informed and engaged public, infrastructures that work, and the rule of law to be upheld. WildlifeDirect invites Kenyans from all walks of life to support environmentally friendly developments that protect our country’s unique natural heritage, and to report on any developments that are in violation of the country’s environmental policies.

End quote

As Kenya enters its next election cycle will the present government now risk that large sections of the conservation fraternity will no longer vote for them and short of supporting an equally hapless opposition probably prefer not to vote at all, potentially robbing the current coalition of tens of thousands of votes by people disillusioned over not just the railway plans through the park but also over calamitous decisions like wanting to build a coal fired power plant in Lamu.
Said another regular conservation contributor: ‘If they can get to NEMA anything will be possible in Kenya. The so called scientist who tailor wrote the study for the government and which NEMA accepted, is as disgraced a man now as was his colleague who tried to whitewash and greenwash the sand extraction off the Kenya coastline just in sight of some of our best beaches. The damage there is visible and has been well documented and the environmental tribunal has therefore stopped it. Our only hope now is the Environmental Tribunal and the courts of the land to stop this atrocity against our Nairobi National Park. This is like building a jet airport in the middle of the Masai Mara!‘.
This correspondent’s first thought was DON’T GIVE THEM IDEAS as truly, with the barrier NEMA was supposed to be against environmental destruction removed, there now nothing stands between greedy commercial interests setting their sights on other protected areas across Kenya.

Find below links to past articles written here on this subject including maps and illustrations how best a bypass route could entirely avoid the Nairobi National Park which is now looking at a bleak future.