NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 31 – Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Chairman Richard Leakey says the passage of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park is a necessary evil.
Addressing the press on Friday, Leakey said that while a railway line shouldn’t ideally cut through any park, underdevelopment was a Kenyan reality and KWS could only make the best of the difficult situation in which they found themselves.
“We have to find a solution to it. We cannot say to the people of Kenya ‘Oh the railway can’t come through Nairobi Park so you won’t have a railway for five years while you sort out the legal process and spend our money.’
“It’s not the Chinese money that’s at stake. They’re being paid. It’s our money; yours and my taxes. So I think we have to be realistic. My friends I’m sorry but my belief is it’s not a good solution but it’s the best solution we can find in 2015 in the circumstances that face us.”
Kenya Railways Chairman, General( rtd)Jeremiah Kianga, told Capital FM News that cutting through the Nairobi National Park was the best option available to them.
“Had we followed Mombasa Road, we’d have had to cut through Bamburi Cement and many other developments. The African Heritage House being the most shouted about.”
Leakey said the crossing of animals shouldn’t be hindered as trains will be up on bridges and overpasses.
“Animals will have access to the Eastern side of the SGR track without hindrance by passing under several sections of the track that will be elevated on three bridges of almost a kilometre in total length and an underpass height of six metres minimum but generally a height of over 20 metres.”
He however told Capital News that the KWS would need to monitor the effects of the noise the trains will make and their vibrations on the animals.
He was also adamant that the KWS would need to be involved from the get go in future on any development projects touching on the parks.
“This process has been ongoing and this board that I chair came in four months ago and we found what in French they call a fait accompli, the deals were already done.”
The KWS and Kenya Railways are now in the process of negotiating an endowment that would go toward wildlife conservation to, “offset the intrusion of the easement.”
National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri, who was also present at the press briefing, refuted accusations that the decision to cut through the Nairobi National Park was taken to avoid what would be the more costly compensation of private developers should the SGR have cut through privately owned land.
Unlike Kianga, the Friends of the Nairobi National Park remained unconvinced that a bridge cutting through the park was the best option.
The organisation’s chair Aliya Habib accused the National Environment Management Authority of failing to factor in the effect construction of the bridges would have on migratory patterns.