Court Restrains Planned Railway Construction in Nairobi National Park

A Kenyan court has ordered the government not to proceed with the planned construction of the so-called Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) through the Nairobi National Park until an environmental impact assessment is carried out to determine the railway’s effect on wildlife.

Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal issued the injunction against the SGR construction on Monday following a petition by activist Okiyah Omtatah and Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation seeking to stop the National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service, China Road and Bridge Corporation, Kenya Railways Corporation, the Attorney General and the ministries of Environment and Transport from implementing second phase of the SGR.

“Take notice that the National Environment Tribunal has received an appeal from Okiyah Omtatah and Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management against NEMA’s failure to stop the project, which is currently underway without the benefit of Environmental Impact Assessment license as mandated and required by law,” the tribunal’s chairman said in a letter to the entities responsible for implementing the railway project.

Conservation groups have been unhappy with path that the Kenyan government had proposed for routing of the second phase the new Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.

The government’s preferred path is a viaduct 18 metres above the ground that cuts across the entire 6 kilometers of the park. It will begin eight metres from the edge of the park at the northern gate and continue for 41 kilometers after exiting it to the south, according to the minutes of a meeting between representatives from the Conservation Alliance of Kenya and those from the government departments concerned.
Members of the Alliance expressed regret that conservation groups were included in the consultations very late in the SGR project – well after the government had decided on the path of the railway through the park.

They said one of the alternative routes, that runs through Athi River town, had the minimum impact on the Nairobi National Park and should have be given further considerations and, if desirable, stakeholders were prepared to bring in partners to explore how additional funding would be raised for the expected cost overun.

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