M a r k e t N e w s

Lobby group wants more consultations over new SGR route

Posted on : Tuesday, 20th September 2016

 Conservationists are up in arms about the Nairobi-Naivasha standard gauge railway (SGR) route that will cut through the Nairobi National Park, and are calling for the postponement of its launch to allow for more consultations.

 
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to launch this new phase, whose construction will begin at the Nairobi National Park, on September 26.
 
Conservationist lobby Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP) argues that launching the project before a full environmental impact assessment is meant to hoodwink Kenyans and allow for the construction of the controversial phase.
 
“An environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted after the route is launched will not give adequate time for technical input from the conservation fraternity before the commencement of the project,” FoNNaP says in its petition, adding that they have requested the Kenya Railways, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for more time before the project launch to explore alternative options and avoid the public uproar — national and international — that could arise.
 
Conservation groups suggest that the launch of the project should be modified to exclude an announcement of the Nairobi National Park route that has not been the subject of public consultation and agreement if it is not postponed altogether.
 
“The conservation stakeholders were being included very late in the project when the government had negotiated and pushed forward a route through the park. These engagements need to be done early in the feasibility phase,” the conservation group said.
 
The group has been pushing for the Athi River route, which it says has minimum impact on the park. This route would push the costs of the second phase to $634 million and require significant modification from the Syokimau hub to operate. Its design would see a parallel 2.5km bridge at Athi River. However, this option will still require an additional 100 acres of park land.
 
Kenya Railways did not prefer this route as it would require double tracks to the marshalling yard. Apart from the Athi River line, there was the Kibera route that would cost $674 million to construct. It would follow the Southern bypass, cut through Kibera, and terminate close to the inland container depot.
 
This would have seen Kenya Railways part with $1.2 million for land acquisition. It would also have an underground tunnel and overpass on its line.
 
The other option was the Ngong Forest-Magadi Road route that would cost $615 million. This route would run along the Southern Bypass with a dog leg through the western forest in Nairobi National Park (NNP) then exit through Magadi road. According to Kenya Railways, it was deemed more expensive as it would pass through several institutions, incurring huge land costs.
 
The third option was the Savannah Route that would run through the middle of the park from Syokimau to the Maasai gate. It would be built on a 7.2km overhead bridge, 18m high across the park. Its estimated cost of construction was $523 million.
 
The fourth option, which has since been adopted as the official route, was the modified Savannah Route, which is slightly shorter with a variation in the southern section. This would cost $543 million.
 
Friends of the Nairobi National Park accuse Kenya Railways and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure of withholding feasibility reports and other studies that have supported the bridge option of the railway line running through the park.
 
“None of the conservation groups can verify any of the information such as wildlife densities, distribution and movement overlaid with the proposed railway routes to better inform the impact of the options on wildlife movement, the aesthetic value and integrity of the park, and the real costs of the impact and loss of the ecological services and biodiversity benefits have not been considered by decision makers,” the group says.
 
Transport Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera said they will ensure that these developments do not compromise the country’s natural resources.
 
“Despite this, we must understand that a trade-off for the interest of the Kenyan population must be made. And we believe this new route offers the best option,” said Mr Nyakera, adding that the environmental impact assessment will only be conducted after project route launch.
 
Julius Kamau, the executive director of the East African Wildlife Society, said that the launch will compromise the EIA process.
 
“It’s rather obvious that National Environment Management Authority will not deny the project the EIA licence especially after a presidential launch. This is the reason we are opposed to the EIA being done after the launch,” Mr Kamau said.

Source : www.theeastafrican.co.ke
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