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Dismay over Nema decision to allow standard gauge railway to pass through park

Tuesday January 10 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta (wearing hard hat) at the commissioning of the second phase of the standard gauge railway project in Embulbul in Kajiado on October 19, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta (wearing hard hat) at the commissioning of the second phase of the standard gauge railway project in Embulbul in Kajiado on October 19, 2016. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

STELLA CHERONO
By STELLA CHERONO
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Conservationists have expressed dismay at the decision by the environment authority to grant approval for the standard gauge railway to pass through Nairobi National Park.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) issued a licence giving Kenya Railways the go-ahead to construct the railway’s Phase 2A that will pass through the park on an elevated bridge.

WildlifeDirect, a conservation organisation, said despite the overwhelming public opposition, Nema approved the construction, as the government promised that the railway will not impede wildlife migrations.

The government had also promised that funds would be made available to improve the status of this and other parks in the country, while protecting the people who live adjacent to parks.

WildlifeDirect Chief Executive Officer Paula Kahumbu said the decision to route the railway through the park not only goes against public opinion but also ignores the advice of numerous scientific experts who have warned of irreversible consequences.

“Moreover, it sets a very dangerous precedent for other protected areas in Kenya threatened by infrastructure projects, mining, and unregulated urban and agricultural expansion,” said Dr Kahumbu. She said stakeholders brought together by WildlifeDirect in October last year had unanimously called on Kenya Railways to look for an alternative solution that would preserve the park, but the efforts fell on deaf ears and that the park now faced an uncertain future.

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“The park is Kenya’s oldest protected natural area and the only national park in the world located within a major city. It contains more biodiversity than many countries and is a sanctuary of global significance for some endangered species, notably the black rhinoceros,” she said.

She added that the park provided incalculable benefits for millions of Nairobi residents as well as tourists and business visitors from all over the world. “We will be monitoring compliance on all the conditions of the licence and laws of Kenya,” said Dr Kahumbu.

“We acknowledge that infrastructure development is urgently required in Kenya and concerned that it greatly amplifies threats to wildlife,” she said.