CIKU'S BEEFS: Lay off the Nairobi National Park!

Thursday March 24 2016

Giraffes graze at the Nairobi National Park.

Giraffes graze at the Nairobi National Park. The fact that the Park is the only such entity in a city is a plus for Kenya. The greatest threat to our planet has always been the illogical belief that someone else will save it. Not us, as individuals. Someone else.PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By Ciku Muiruri
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The greatest threat to our planet has always been the illogical belief that someone else will save it. Not us, as individuals. Someone else.

It is okay to toss trash from your car window because it’s some else’s mess to clean up. It’s okay to compromise the environment because we need efficient transportation.

As the late Wangari Maathai said though, “The environment and the economy are both sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.”

When Tanzania wanted to build a 53km highway across the northern section of the Serengeti National Park, many Kenyans went nuts. The Serengeti ecosystem is critical to the annual wildebeest migration, and a highway would interfere with this, due to the

fragmentation of the natural migration patterns. So even though those plans were happening over there, they would have affected us.

Surprisingly, not joining in the chorus of condemnation was the KWS Chairman who then said that such a highway was inevitable. Strange words from Leakey who you’d think would be frothing at the mouth over this.

It took not the Kenya Wildlife Service intervention or even that of our government, but that of a nonprofit organisation located here (African Network for Animal Welfare) to stop the plans.

The organisation filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction on the grounds that the proposed highway was violating the East African Community Treaty, of which Tanzania is a signatory.

The East African Court of Justice ruled in favour of ANAW, and the animals in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem live to migrate another day.

Fast forward to now when ironically, our own government decides to build a railway through the Nairobi National Park. Leakey’s response?

“It’s a pragmatic alternative that this country needs to try. Doing so will actually be leading the way for the whole continent.”

Excuse me, what? I’m sorry sir but that’s not good enough! What happened to Leakey?

The southern bypass through the park was a bad idea. It is affecting the biodiversity of that section, as well as noise pollution and carbon emissions.

Wasn’t there an injunction actually issued to prevent this from happening? Why was it ignored? No wonder the lions keep wandering off the park. But if the southern bypass was a bad idea, then the SGR through the park is a horrific one.

Already, many hectares of trees in the park have been destroyed to make way for phase 1 of SGR. Approximately 5kms of the park have been affected, from the Cheetah gate to the Syiokimau station.

Further, the second phase of the petroleum pipeline has also taken its pound of flesh for a section of approximately 8kms, creating enormous environmental disturbance and damage to the ecosystem.

KWS should be fighting any further developments tooth and nail, not calling it a ‘necessary evil’.

Alternative routes that do not interfere with the park exist, why is this even a conversation? They say it’s about money. Well, if we are going to talk cash, let’s talk of the billions we earn from tourism.

The Nairobi National Park contributes a significant amount to this kitty. The SGR is a one-off cost, whereas tourism revenue is for posterity.

If the government needs to save money by going through Nairobi National Park, let them give us a number and allow conscientious and industrious thinking Kenyans to raise the funds necessary to keep them out! How much? Give us a number.

Leave it to us to raise it. To me, that’s the necessary evil.