, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 16 – Wildlife and environmental conservationists on Friday morning held protests in Nairobi against the proposed construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), across the Nairobi National 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.
- The KWS however indicated that there will be public dialogue on the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway across the Nairobi National Park
- Speaking after receiving a petition from protestors who were against the project, Director General Kitili Mbathi stated that an impact assessment test will be conducted by Kenya Railways to ensure that no one is affected by it
- The protestors were not satisfied but Mbathi insisted that all was not lost as they had a forum where they could air their views
The hundreds of demonstrators led by the organisation’s chairman Sidney Quantai converged on Lang’ata Road before marching to the KWS accusing it of ‘auctioning’ the park which is the abode for wildlife.
“We do not want any construction to go on. We are saying even the Chinese who already are putting a permanent camp near Rongai should stop that because they started even doing beacons on people’s lands without consulting them,” he stated.
“People wake up one morning and you find Chinese on your land, they have done beacons and they are drilling. That is wrong, that is not the way it goes. You need to consult the owners. You need to consult the people who are directly involved, then if they agree, you move on,” he said.
The protestors argued that the construction of the railway line across the park will endanger the lives of animals, while threatening the ecosystem.
“The Maasai community gave up that land for conservation and they are the custodians of this park so if that means that they are just shifting goal posts. We will not agree to that and we want the KWS to give us a satisfactory answer to give us word that they will protect the park and not give it to Kenya Railways to put up infrastructure,” Tasha Kamweru, one of the demonstrators said.
They further pointed out that the construction of the railway in the middle of the park will destabilise the balance between humans and wildlife as animals move from their natural residence to areas inhabited by communities.
“So this is the first time we are seeing the government proposing a major project inside a wildlife protected area. The railway will actually divide the park effectively into two. Now the President is set to launch it on the 26th. So do we do an environmental impact assessment after the President has launched it? Definitely not,” stated Kahindi Lekalhaile, another protestor. “There is no way us ordinary Kenyans we will allow the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park. It is not negotiable full stop.”
He explained that the construction of the railway will impact negatively on tourism within the Country.
“Kenya is a great place for wildlife and what will actually happen is that the moment these wildlife move out and they get affected by people out there, that will make the park less attractive and it will be avoided. Kenya is a great destination for safari and Nairobi National Park being the oldest national park in Nairobi represents all the other 68 national parks in the country,” he said.
The KWS however indicated that there will be public dialogue on the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway across the Nairobi National Park.
Speaking after receiving a petition from protestors who were against the project, Director General Kitili Mbathi stated that an impact assessment test will be conducted by Kenya Railways to ensure that no one is affected by it.
The protestors were not satisfied but Mbathi insisted that all was not lost as they had a forum where they could air their views.
“Thank you for coming peacefully. I have received your petition, the board of KWS and the Ministry have given the Kenya Railways authority to conduct an environmental impact assessment on a proposed route and bridge over the park,” he said.
The KWS DG further indicated that public participation in such a project is enshrined in the Constitution and there was no cause for alarm by all involved.
“By law, part of the process of the environmental impact assessment will be a number of public fora where everybody will be able to express their views either for the proposal or against the proposal and very importantly any mitigating factors that could be used against the proposal,” he said.
According to KWS chairman Dr Richard Leakey, the decision to build a bridge over the park was the most viable choice out of the seven available options.
Dr Leakey, who was highly opposed of the coexistence of the Park and the Railway at the same space, said the new proposal is out for the good of the country contrary to popular belief.