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Monday, December 21, 2015

Kenya - Don't destroy Nairobi environs




December 21st   2015


Our objection to the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway) Phase II is based on the following concerns:

·         Unacceptable social impact – the SGR will displace thousands of people from their homes, including ancestral homes, cause loss of open spaces, affect air quality, increase pollution, affect health negatively and reduce recreational space.
·         Irreparable ecological damage – habitat degradation especially loss of rare indigenous forests and wildlife, and reduce the rich biological diversity of the city.  This contravenes the rights of citizens provided for under the Constitution of Kenya.
·         Immeasurable economic loss – Loss of tourism, job losses and reduction of future options for livelihoods and economic growth. As our beloved country embarks on ambitious infrastructure development projects, there is an urgent need to recognize  and protect the non-monetary values of our natural resources. As we develop, we must not fail to secure what is protected by law.

Alternative route: While we appreciate that Kenya needs the SGR, the proposed route through Nairobi is unnecessarily disruptive and costly.  Looping through Nairobi National Park, the Ngong Road Forest, and residential areas does not add any economic value to the railway or Kenya. We propose a route that will balance social, environmental and economic benefits. This would be from Athi River directly west to the Rift Valley town of Mai Mahiu, thereby bypassing the city of Nairobi. This will preserve Nairobi’s valuable protected areas, and minimize social and environmental impacts whilst serving the purposes of the SGR and the greater metropolitan Nairobi area of tomorrow.

Irreparable Damage to Kenya
Nairobi is one of the world’s greatest capital cities boasting an oasis of nature and has the world’s greatest diversity of birds in any capital city, and indeed many countries. This ecological wealth should not be taken for granted. The park and forests serve as the “lungs” of the capital, replenishing atmospheric oxygen and soaking up pollutants, giving us clean water, and supporting crop pollinators which in turn have immeasurable health benefits and bolster food security. The park also plays a priceless role in nurturing the spiritual wellbeing of Nairobi’s four million citizens, as well as the biodiversity and cultural heritage it preserves.

The benefits of Nairobi’s National Park and her forests are increasingly important as Nairobi enters a dramatic new phase of economic growth and urban expansion under Kenya’s Vision 2030.

The SGR IIA is setting a dangerous precedent

Developments for the future cannot be driven by short term vision. The Park and forests of Nairobi were set aside long before independence to preserve the spectacular ecological values for the people of Kenya and for posterity, by our predecessors. These commitments have been honoured by our founders and past presidents.

The SGR is a vital development for the future of Kenya. However, its proposed routing through the city will compromise commitments made by generations of leaders. The precedent that will be set if the proposed route of SGR II is adopted, will signal the tragic end of Kenya’s global leadership in conservation and sustainable development.  It will be a betrayal of our future generations. Kenya aspires to become the world’s super power for nature conservation and eco-tourism. This opportunity must not be wasted by today’s short sighted planners and short term appeal. Indeed development and conservation can, and must work hand in hand for the benefit of this and future generations.

In the wise words of our founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the Republic of Kenya, as displayed at the entrance of Nairobi National Park:

“The natural resources of this country – its wildlife which offers such an attraction to visitors from all over the world, the beautiful places in which these animals live, the mighty forests which guard the water catchment areas so vital to the survival of man and beast – are a priceless heritage for the future. The government of Kenya, fully realising the value of its natural resources pledges itself to conserve them for posterity with all the means at its disposal.”

We question whether the government of today, has explored all options with all the means at its disposal.

In the same vein as the founding President, President Uhuru Kenyatta at the just concluded climate change summit in Paris, reiterated his commitment to achieving and maintaining tree cover of at least 10% of the country’s total land area, and announced that we currently stand at only 7.2%. The proposed route into Nairobi National Park cuts through the only forest in the Park and Ngong Road Forests. This will set Kenya back against this goal.

The residents associations of Nairobi, and the Conservation Alliance of Kenya are committed to development in Kenya that is economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.

As Key stakeholders we demand the following:

1.      The Kenya Railways must consider alternative routes for SGR II that minimize impacts on Nairobi’s protected areas and negative social and economic impacts.

2.      The Kenya Railways must adhere to all legal requirements under the Constitution, Environmental and Wildlife legislation (EMCA and WCMA), as well as international agreements. This includes genuine engagement and participation of Kenyan experts in this development.

3.      The Government of Kenya should re-commit to the words of our founding father, that our natural resources “are a priceless heritage for the future” and that “The government of Kenya, fully realising the value of its natural resources pledges itself to conserve them for posterity with all the means at its disposal.” National Parks and protected areas cannot therefore be considered the cheaper easier alternative for new development projects.

Let us work together for a better Kenya

This statement is penned by the Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK), a coalition of over 100 nationally and internationally recognised conservation organizations and experts, The Karen Langata Development Association, Miotoni and Karen End Committee, The Ngong Road Forest Association, and the Forest Edge Road Estate Residents Association.

For more information contact:
Name               Steve Itela, Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK),: Chairman
                        Mordecai Ogada, Chair, CAK Conservation and Development thematic Group
Phone:             +254-722824038, +254-722823998
Email:              steve@anaw.org and executivedirector@csa.or.ke

or send replymail to: ECOTERRA AFRICA <africanode@ecoterra.net>

Photo suggestion:  Lappet-faced Vulture– one of the globally-threatened bird species that nest in the forest section of Nairobi National Park which will be impacted by this proposed route.
see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lappet-faced_vulture


References to the Constitution of Kenya
Article 42. Every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment which includes the right to a) Have an environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures.

Article 69 (2) Every person has a duty to cooperate with state organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.

Article 69 (1) b The government will work to achieve tree cover of at least 10% of land area of Kenya.