Posts Tagged ‘nairobi national park’

By Salisha Chandra @salisha_ww (MD, KUAPO TRUST)                                                                             Text First Published in Mazingira Yetu – October 2016 Edition

Today, in Kenya, we stand at a crossroads. One path could lead us to our ultimate destruction as we move away from our natural instincts of living with and conserving wild life and wild spaces; the other could see Kenya continue to lead from the front as we learn and show the world how a win-win situation can be attained between development and the environment. Bang smack in the middle of it all is the first park to be gazetted in East Africa – the world-renowned Nairobi National Park (NNP).


Nairobi National Park became an officially protected area in 1946, when Maasai pastoralists agreed to move off these lands so that they could be used solely for conservation. Today NNP remains the only park in a capital city attracting in excess of 100,000 visitors annually and generating more than Kshs 45,000,000 per year. It’s home to the endangered Black Rhino and another 100 odd mammalian species, over 400 bird species and endemic plants that are only found within the park confines. The park is an education hub for students from all over the country as well. But over and above these are the ecosystem services that the park provides for Nairobi city and its environs – it is a carbon sink that sucks in the noxious fumes from our industrial area and turns it into oxygen. NNP also acts as a water purifier for one of our key rivers and it is also a breeding-site for the white-backed vultures – nature’s own recycling machines.

KUOPA Infographics-English

At only 117 sq. kms, NNP is one of the smallest parks in Kenya but its size belies its importance. It is a core area in a larger ecosystem and one that once supported the second largest annual migration of large herbivores. In the past, wildlife would disperse up to Kilimambogo (Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park) in the north, Amboseli in the south, Narok in the west and Machakos in the East.

But for many years now, Nairobi National Park has been facing an onslaught. An onslaught from development. From growing population pressures to land subdivision, the advent of flower farms and gypsum quarries, development has slowly but surely led to these corridors becoming blocked. The wildlife around NNP has decreased more than 70% since the early 70’s, so the core protected area – the park itself – has become even more important.

However, since 2014, NNP has had to contend with a new and growing threat – large-scale infrastructure development. It started with pieces being hived off for the Southern Bypass and Phase 1 of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). Both of these developments could have been re-routed to leave the park un-touched but through impunity and corruption of due-process, NNP had to give up close to 350 acres of her land. So when the bombshell dropped that KWS had nominally approved a route that would cut through the centre of the park, it sent a tremor through conservationists and pastoralist community members living adjacent to NNP. And our reaction was unprecedented – a cry to save our park echoing from the depths of our hearts.


On September 13, 2016 we learnt that the modified-savannah route (as it is being dubbed) will cut right through the middle of the park. To our shock, we also learned that this route had been approved by KWS. The KRC have proposed several supposed mitigation measures to lessen the impact on Nairobi National Park including having the SGR raised on average 18 meters above ground and a phased construction process that would see it take 18 months to complete. But what we are all wondering is why does the SGR have to go through the park, when there are other route options available? Why have KRC and KWS not thought about the adverse and ill effects of the actual construction process. There was a spate of increased human-wildlife conflict at the time when the southern bypass works were going on – we cannot begin to imagine what that would mean for 18 months of construction right through the centre of the park. Wouldn’t the park be well and truly be dead by the end? The cynics amongst us say that actually may be that is the end game here; that behind all of this is a ploy to grab this premium land for development…

It is hard to know or even try to understand ulterior motives. As conservationists, we are not opposed to the SGR in principle – we all want a functioning cargo rail service in our country. But we do not want it at the expense of our heritage, our health and our environment. Kenya has the chance to set the right precedent – that, in fact, there can be a win-win situation for both development and environment. One does not have to lose for the other to win. Our vote goes not only to NNP but also to SGR.


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On July 3rd – there will be a public hearing at KWS headquarters in Nairobi for the “Proposed provision of Southern Bypass Road Transport Corridor on Land currently designated as part of Nairobi National Park.” We would like to take a moment today to share with all of you the essential facts – which are as follows:

  1. A NET ruling in 2013 stopped construction of the Bypass Road in the contentious area between Ole Sereni Hotel and Carnivore Restaurant where the bypass road was planned to encroach into the park. It, further, directed NEMA to comply with both substantive and procedural provision of law in supervising any future EIA processes for the area under contention.
  2. In July 2014, the cabinet approved and directed that approximately 38.8 ha of Nairobi National Parl should upon completion of relevant procedures, cease to be part of the park. The park would be compensated by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure – acre for acre
  3. In Ocober 2014, a joint Inter-Ministerial team determined that the proposed degazettement would take too long and that an easement agreement between KeNHA and KWS be entered into (easement is provided under the land act 2012).
  4. There is a proposal now (sanctioned under Section 38 of the WCMA 2013) that allows for acquiring and exchanging private land with a portion of Nairobi National Park land.
  5. The total park area that would be affected by the Bypass alignment is approximately 89.1 acres, with a monetary value of Kshs 2.7 bn.
  6. The area will affect home ranges of wildlife in the park as will noise during construction, pollution post construction. Existing infrastructure built illegally on the road reserve has already impacted this area of the park.
  7. Field surveys have been carried out by KeNHA and KWS to identify parcels of land south of the park, suitable for wildlife conservation. Approx 380 acres have been identified which house a lodge, and three large residences.
  8. 264 acres of this identified land is already leased by KWS and being used for wildlife conservation. The lease is for 25 years and approximately 20 – 21 years still left on the lease.

This newspaper article outlines some arguments for and against this easement.…/southern-bypass-through-park-fa… The diagram shows how the bypass will curve through the land to maintain distance from Wilson Airport. NNPSBYPASS The Southern Bypass is one that many in Nairobi have been waiting for – it will improve traffic flow and ease congestion (supposedly) but we must also remember that we will be doing so by setting a precedent – by saying it’s ok to illegally build on a road reserve if it’s next to a national park – we will just take that land from the park. Also remember that initially there was no intention by KeNHA to mitigate this issue by providing alternative land parcels to the park. We thank ANAW, EAWLS and Paula Kahumbu for appealing the NEMA license given in 2011 and bringing this issue to the fore. We want you all to read the facts above and come to your own assessment as to what the way forward should be. In our opinion, at the very least the park should be compensated before any construction starts with appropriate land of the same value as the land that is being taken – at best, we should raze down those illegally constructed buildings and right some wrongs. Either way, the Southern Bypass will be built…how much it affects Nairobi National Park depends on how much we care for our heritage….