Why the SGR railway must not pass through the Nairobi National Park

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Conservationist Dr. Paula Kahumbu has written the following letter to Geoffery Wahungu, the Director General of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to express her reservations of the government’s plan to route the SGR railway within the precincts of the Nairobi National Park.

To support the campaign to save the park, Kindly email your reservations to NEMA Director General via dgnema@nema.go.ke by 25th November 2016.


Geoffery Wahungu,
Director General,
National Environmental Management Authority,
Kenya.
Email: dgnema@nema.go.ke

19 November 2016

Dear Sir,

RE: COMMENT ON THE ESIA ON THE PROPOSED STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY PROJECT FROM NAIROBI SOUTH RAILWAY STATION-NAIVASHA INDUSTRIAL PARK-ENOOSUPUKIA, NAROK

I have reviewed the ESIA as referenced above. While I appreciate the importance of the SGR, it is my opinion that regardless of any proposed mitigations to reduce impact on wildlife, the SGR Must not cross Nairobi Park for the following reasons

1. The park is a protected area, as such the railway should give way to the park not the other way around. There is growing global recognition of the importance of wilderness, parks, greenery and open spaces to human health and productivity, especially in cities. Our forefathers knew this when they gazetted the parks, reserves and forests of Kenya. It is your duty to defend our protected wilderness and cultural heritage areas as sacred.

2. The project will set a precedent that will affect all our parks and reserves, forests and other areas of national heritage. It will also set a precedent for the rest of Africa.

3. Kenya has lobbied internationally for global support for conservation of wildlife, environment and to halt climate change. This proposal flies in the face of our commitments and intentions which will significantly damage our international’s image and identity as a world leader in conservation. Most significantly it would destroy the image and name of our president as Africa’s number one champion for wildlife.

4. Alternative routes for the SGR exist, for example via Konza or Athi River which if used will define Kenya as a leading African country that achieves development while protecting the environment. This may cost more money which we are confident can be obtained.

Dr Wahungu, you have seen thousands of Kenyans from all walks of life (children, communities, experts, engineers, industrialists, residents of Nairobi, international organizations and even donors) protesting the proposal for the SGR to cross Nairobi Park. Some people have taken to demonstrations on the streets, others have chained themselves to the park gates, and others have delivered petitions to the president. Articles about this have been published in the newspapers around the world. The significance of these citizen actions and it’s impact on Kenyans must not be ignored.

Kenya is at a crossroads. The reason why we find ourselves in this crisis in which conservation is being viewed as a threat to development, is due largely to poor planning, lack of transparency and involvement, and excessive attention to development without consideration to the cost of environment. Just this week we have seen yet another elephant killed on Mombasa Road due to the effect of the SGR interfering with elephant movements. We have also witnessed a surge in human wildlife conflict in the Tsavo Area.

All of this could have been avoided if proper effort was put into planning. Therefore to avoid repeated embarrassment to our head of state, and cost to the Kenyan people, we demand that the Ministry of Transport deliver the full ESIA for the SGR from Nairobi to Malaba and not in this piecemeal way. The risk of not doing this is expensive litigation, delays as matters are held up in court, embarrassment to the head of state in international arenas, and lack of trust by the financiers of the project.

Lets not be known as the country that pretended to care.

It is your duty as the head of NEMA to ensure that Kenya’s environment is protected for this and future generations as promised in Kenya’s constitution. I urge you to reject the proposal from the Ministry of Transport, and refuse to issue a permit for construction of the SGR Phase II unless it does not enter or impact on Nairobi Park or any other protected area. Secondly,l suggest you do not issue a license for construction of the railway in sections, demand a full EIA for the entire length to ensure we do not create another crisis in environmentally sensitive areas such as near the Masai Mara or the Mau.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. Paula Kahumbu O.G.W

CEO of WildlifeDirect, and Chair of the National Museums of Kenya

cc.

CS Macharia – Ministry of Transport
CS Wakhungu – Ministry of Environment
CS Kinyua – Civil Service