Today we submitted our detailed comments on the “after-thought” ESIA submitted by Habitat Planners on behalf of the project proponents Kenya Railways Corporation and CCCC. Please see below for our covering letter and find attached the detailed comments brief.
REF: GAZETTE NOTICE NO. 8904 THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND CO-ORDINATION ACT (No. 8 of 1999) THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT STUDY REPORT FOR THE PROPOSED STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY PROJECT FROM NAIROBI SOUTH RAILWAY STATION – NAIVASHA INDUSTRIAL PARK – ENOOSUPUKIA, NAROK COUNTY. INVITATION OF PUBLIC COMMENTS
With reference to the above subject, Kenyans United Against Poaching Trust (KUAPO Trust) is pleased to submit its comments on the proposed routing of the standard gauge railway (SGR) with specific emphasis on the routing through Nairobi National Park and its environs. Please note that as such there is no opposition to the SGR as a project – indeed it will no doubt result in tremendous benefit to the country and the region. However, the main point of contention is its routing through the Nairobi National Park, which is a protected area and a national asset.
The citizens of Kenya pride themselves on having one of the most unique destinations, a capital city with a National Park, the one and only Nairobi National Park. Every year, millions of visitors flock to Kenya and the majority of them make a pit stop at the Nairobi National Park bringing in much needed tourism dollars into our economy. Schools from around the country send their students to Nairobi National Park. But today, the future of this Park is being called into question as infrastructure development is pressurizing from every corner – whether it be the Southern bypass or the Standard Gauge Railway. Already over 300 acres of the park have been taken due to these infrastructure projects and the only remaining open dispersal corridor is also now being threatened by SGR Phase 2A.
As was specifically pointed out in the “Report of the Task Force on Wildlife Security 2014” (pg 82 – “ Space for wildlife is increasingly diminishing due to land conversion, land subdivisions, loss of wildlife habitats.”
Furthermore, our Constitution, the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act and the National Spatial Plan 2015 – 2045, all explicitly state that any infrastructure construction within protected areas should not be allowed.
In this context, and the ever-increasing pressure on Nairobi National Park, we believe that no mitigation measures are enough for us to allow the SGR to be routed through the middle of Nairobi National Park (NNP) and its environs as per ESIA – 1296. Not only would this greatly impact the wildlife within NNP, the environment around Nairobi National Park, and the communities that live with wildlife in the Tuala/Oloosirkon areas, it will also have serious repercussion on the brand image and reputation of Kenya as a wildlife destination and will have adverse effects on the economy of Kenya.
We would like to share that an alternative route (see appendix) exists that provides a win-win solution for the SGR and for the environment. As a conservation organization, we are not against the development of the SGR, what we are seeking is a landmark setting precedent not only for Kenya but also for the world on how development and environment can be balanced, how both can win – we firmly believe that the alternative route presented by the Save NNP Campaign coalition is the most viable and desirable option for all parties involved. We ask NEMA to adhere to the precautionary principle The project sets a precedent for other development projects that could encroach into the NNP, and other protected areas in the country, we must stop this now and achieve the landmark precedent of a win-win solution.
Moreover, we find that the ESIA submitted by Habitat Planners & Environmental Consultants on behalf of the Kenya Railway Corporate (KRC) inadequately addresses the negative environmental impact of heavy construction within a pristine area of the NNP, includes glaring omissions, and has a flawed cost comparison analysis with no value given to the protected area land or the broader ecosystem services the park provides. We also know from independent study of the stakeholders, the ESIA consultations excluded some of the key stakeholders during the process, which would render it null and void under the EMCA 1999 act. Furthermore, even the consultations that were held were briefings and not proper consultations. Individuals were not provided information beforehand or given time to digest it. Neither was it a forum to ask questions – they were simply lectured at as if the route was a done deal.
Last but not least, it is disheartening to note that the project proponents have shown little regard for NEMA and the EMCA by commencing Phase 2A without an EIA in place and a license from NEMA. The EIA is a decision-making tool and should guide whether a project should be implemented, abandoned or modified prior to implementation. SGR Phase 2A has already started – there is ongoing construction at the Ngong tunnels as we type this letter to you. We would also like to state that commencement of a project does not start at construction only; making agreements or decisions in relation to the project are also part of the project. We are saddened to say that Kenya Railways Corporation and CCCC have been working towards the chosen route as submitted in the ESIA in the absence of an approved ESIA. This begs the question whether the ESIA was a simple afterthought to justify actions already taken.
Again, we would like to stress that while we do agree that the need to upgrade our railway infrastructure is increasingly paramount, there are alternatives that do not require the route to pass through protected areas and their environs. There are options available that do not involve destroying Kenya’s heritage and pride. Accordingly, we strongly object to the route proposed for SGR Phase 2A through Nairobi National Park and respectfully request that NEMA reject ESIA-1296.
#SAVENNP Re-Route the SGR away from NNP and its environs.