As a follow up to a workshop held in South Africa on designing linear infrastructure, the African Conservation Centre, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Ewaso Lions, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Power Africa and Endangered Wildlife Trust organised a three-day workshop on February 12-14 whose theme was “Designing Linear Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes.”
The forum, held in the Karen suburb of Nairobi brought together a diversity of voices from governments, technical experts, managers, the private sector and civil society to deliberate on the best practices for linear infrastructure development in East Africa.
Other participants included representatives from Kenya’s Rural Electrification Authority, IUCN, WWF International, the World Bank; the African Development Bank, York University, Montana State University, BirdLife International and the East African Wild Life Society.
The need to incorporate the protection of nature or biodiversity in the planning and design of infrastructure project from the onset was made clear in the discussions. Stakeholders and experts from different agencies need to be engaged from the beginning, it was agreed.
A resolution was passed at the workshop calling for the convening of a conference in 2021 to take the discussion further.
Government representatives acknowledged the need for sustainable infrastructural projects.
There was unanimity that if development projects must encroach on conservation areas then data must be sought to help implementers understand animal behaviour to ensure designs incorporate animal crossing points at appropriate migration areas, taking into account the various animal physical sizes.
Participants visited two wildlife conservancies in Kenya’s Athi-Kapiti plains, south of Nairobi, that serve as dispersal areas for the Nairobi National Park. The aim was to gain some perspective on the impact of the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway on Kenya’s wildlife.
In the Kenyan context, big infrastructural projects have been implemented in the recent past. One of the most notable ones has been the Standard Gauge Railway. Others include roads cutting through the Tsavo National Park, Nairobi National Park and Oloolua Forest, as well as high voltage transmission lines from Ethiopia and the Turkana wind farms through Suswa to Nairobi that traversed wildlife conservancies. In addition, another high voltage line – whose environmental impact has yet been assessed – is being developed to provide power to Konza City, which is under construction in Machakos County.
Designs for high voltage transmission lines in Kenya should also incorporate models that reduce bird strikes. Locations for wind farms can also be chosen carefully in areas with less or no migratory routes for birds to minimize detrimental impact. This will ensure sound development and protection of many species in the long run.