Tribunal stops SGR from cutting through Nairobi Park
Wants all work suspended until petition filed by lobby is heard and determined
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.
Standard gauge railway at the Tsavo Bridge on August 5