Tri­bunal stops SGR from cut­ting through Nairobi Park

Wants all work sus­pended un­til pe­ti­tion filed by lobby is heard and de­ter­mined

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - JOHN MUCHANGI AND GILBERT KOECH @theS­tarKenya

A tri­bunal has stopped con­struc­tion of the Nairobi-Naivasha sec­tion of the stan­dard gauge rail­way, a week be­fore Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta was to launch the project.

The Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Tri­bunal gave the or­ders fol­low­ing a pe­ti­tion by ac­tivist Okiya Om­tatah and the Kenya Coali­tion for Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion and Man­age­ment, a lo­cal lobby group.

The tri­bunal or­dered the China Road and Bridge Cor­po­ra­tion Kenya to stop all ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the project, un­til the ap­peal is heard. “All ac­tiv­i­ties re­lat­ing to the ap­peal in ques­tion must be stopped un­til the ap­peal is heard and de­ter­mined by the tri­bunal,” said NET sec­re­tary Jashon Awuor.

Om­tatah and the lobby group have ac­cused the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Author­ity of al­low­ing the project to go on be­fore an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment is done.

The tri­bunal has pow­ers to over­turn Nema’s de­ci­sions with re­gard to the EIA li­cences, which are manda­tory be­fore de­vel­op­ments such as the SGR can pro­ceed.

Awuor said sec­tion 129 of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment and Co­or­di­na­tion Act em­pow­ers the tri­bunal, lo­cated on Nairobi’s South C Es­tate, to stop ac­tiv­i­ties that are the sub­ject of on­go­ing ap­peals. Uhuru was to launch the sec­ond phase of the SGR project in a ma­jor pub­lic event on Monday next week.

The Nairobi-Naivasha sec­tion runs through the mid­dle of the Nairobi Na­tional Park for six kilo­me­tres, bi­sect­ing the park. De­signs pro­duced by the min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment showed the rail­way will be elevated on huge beams con­structed in­side the park.

Nema di­rec­tor gen­eral Ge­of­frey Wahungu did not an­swer our calls yes­ter­day, but he had con­firmed the Pres­i­dent would launch the project even be­fore an EIA is done.

The project has an­gered the pub­lic and na­ture lovers across the world be­cause the govern­ment has sev­eral other pos­si­ble routes that can spare the park. Kiten­gela, Oloosirkon, Sholinke and Olete­pes residents crit­i­cised the govern­ment for the de­ci­sion. They said they are ready to give their land for the project so the park is spared.

They say the project will cause ir­repara­ble dam­age to the wildlife and their habi­tats. The residents ac­cused the govern­ment of fail­ing to in­volve them in de­ci­sion mak­ing. Nairobi-based In­sti­tute for Law and En­vi­ron­men­tal Gov­er­nance di­rec­tor Ben­son Ochieng said the EIA should be done by an in­de­pen­dent expert.

“This is a ma­jor na­tional project an­chored on Vi­sion 2030. It is dif­fi­cult for govern­ment agen­cies to ob­serve the nec­es­sary con­trols,” he told the Star on the phone.

“Agen­cies such as Nema, the Kenya Wildlife Ser­vice and Kenya Rail­ways Cor­po­ra­tion work at the be­hest of the Pres­i­dent, who is push­ing the agenda. We do not ex­pect it to be done well.”

Nairobi Na­tional Park cov­ers just 12,000 hectares and is the world’s only na­tional park within a city.

Ochieng said govern­ment projects are of­ten pushed by higher in­sti­tu­tions, re­gard­less of their im­pact. He said a trend has emerged in which those in author­ity usu­ally dis­obey court or­ders.

In 2013, the Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Tri­bunal stopped the South­ern By­pass from pass­ing through the Park. Con­ser­va­tion­ists had raised eye­brows over the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

/COUR­TESY

Stan­dard gauge rail­way at the Tsavo Bridge on Au­gust 5

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