SGR enters the Nairobi National Park

Kenya’s National Land Commission (NLC) has again published a list of land titles it is seeking to acquire on behalf of Kenya Railways for the construction of Phase 2A of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Nairobi and Naivasha.

The parcels are in the counties of Kiambu, Kajiado, Nakuru, and Narok. Big winners include Kedong Ranch Ltd as they will be compensated for three huge land parcels (measuring 35.7 hectares, 13.01 hectares, and 100.65 hectares) that were previously listed as being belonging from Morning Side Heights,  Ruaraka Housing Estate, and Morningside Heights respectively. Another is Kiambu Western Grazing Area from who the NLC will purchase 146.8 hectares.

Big losers include the Nairobi National Park which is managed by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and which is billed as the only national park within a capital city in the world which will lose loses 41.3 hectares (about 102 acres) which will be hived from land title – L.R. 10758 that was reserved.  The Nairobi National Park was originally 28,950 acres in 1961 when a 999-year lease was granted to Trustees of the Royal Nairobi Parks. Another loser will be Oloolua Forest 17.3 hectares (about 43 acres) to the railway, at a time when Kenyans are concerned about depletion of forests.There have been news reports that construction work for the SGR has commenced in the Nairobi National Park park in the last few weeks.

Construction through the park had been contested for some time, and back in November 2016, a session was held at the Strathmore Business School where Kenya Railways staff met wildlife conservation groups, and concerned residents, to explain issues like the intent of the government, justification for the SGR, land rights, the railway route, land acquisition cost, feasibilities done, stakeholders consultations, impact on wildlife, environmental and community impact etc.

Alternative routes map from Save Nairobi National Park (“SNNP”)

Athanas Maina, MD of Kenya Railways said that it was not possible to follow the corridor of the old (British) railway, which would not be funded and whose terrain was difficult – and that they had considered seven different routes through which the new railway could exit Nairobi to pass through a crucial tunnel at Ngong. They had settled on a “modified savannah” option and the new SGR railway would loop back from the Inland Container Depot at Embakasi, and go over six kilometers of the Nairobi National Park. This would be achieved by constructing elevated bridges in three stages, and running the railway elevated at an average height of eighteen (18) metres over the park with noise defectors and that construction would be completed in 18 months.

The acting Chairman of the Friends of the Nairobi National Park said that if there was a conflict between conservation vs development,  it is because of a lack of planning and consultation, while another representative spoke of continuous assaults on the Nation National Park over the years with demands for the park to cede more land for construction of the Southern bypass highway, oil pipeline, and fibre cables among others.

Maina said that exact route that the railway would follow remained a secret as many people wanted the line to pass on their land to make money – speculating on land at any cost and waiting for the government project to come – and pointed to the LAPSSET projects that had been derailed demands for land compensation. (Elsewhere it has been reported that landowners in the Konza area got Kshs 3 million (~$30,000) per acre of undeveloped land that was acquired for phase one of the SGR). Another resident said that the park’s main threat was  not the SGR, but individuals who were privatizing land, along wildlife corridors, south of the park for housing and quarrying and cited the Jamii Bora development case

Finally, a letter from Richard Leakey, Chairman of the KWS, was read out in which he said that the SGR would have minimal impact on Nairobi National Park, and mainly during the two years of construction. He added that some conservationists had opposed fencing the southern part of the park for many years because wildlife species migrate through there, and if the railway was laid and fenced there, outside the park, it would cut off wildlife from accessing the park. That ended the debate, that day.

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