While recent headlines in the press announced that the SGR re-alignment through Nairobi National Park had been stopped in court, the bullheaded siege in fact continues as new plans are being pursued to extensively cut through the park’s southern territories and destroy its only migratory routes.
“There’s a passing of judgment from some that we’re doing the wrong thing, because Kenya is a poor country, and we could use the $150 million-odd dollars that they claim the ivory is worth to develop our nation .. But I would rather wait for the judgment of future generations, who I am sure will appreciate the decision we have taken today.”
An unambiguous pledge to the non-negotiable value of Kenya’s wildlife heritage
This statement by Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, dramatically staged on the backdrop of 105 tons of blazing ivory undeniably bears a strong commitment, an unambiguous pledge to the long-term value of Kenya’s wildlife heritage not only for those witnessing this record burn but, as clearly stated, for future generations to come.
The forceful and controversial ceremony did not fail to capture global awareness and even stimulate ovations where it was perceived as a distinct engagement for wildlife from the very midst of a continent struggling to take a stand for bio-diversity as emerging market dynamics are blinding the need for long term decision making.
A large-scale wildlife trade, approved and ratified by ivory burning protagonists
But let’s zoom out onto to the very setting of the ceremonial scene, the Nairobi National Park. From the borders of this globally unique urban wildlife sanctuary there is a very different, almost inaudible message arising. There, mega-construction schemes – city bypass highways and railway systems – are carelessly encroaching into rare breeding grounds for endangered species such as the black rhino and conclusively bringing the park to fall if nothing is undertaken soon to voice and stop these developments, developments that unambiguously too represent a large-scale wildlife trade, approved and ratified by the same ivory burning protagonists – inevitably, this time however, mostly behind closed curtains.
Infrastructure driving economic development is indispensable, but at what cost?
Since the park was gazetted in 1946 the vast 117 square kilometers of abundant wildlife, savanna grasslands, forests and wetlands bordering Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, have always been a strong symbol of Kenya’s inherent dedication to the nation’s natural heritage.
No other scene would have channeled the country’s ivory burning statement more boldly than the capital’s National Park.
But after decades of surviving the pressure of urban expansion, Nairobi National park and the 400 bird and 100 mammal species it harbors are now at risk of succumbing to property speculation and ill-advised, short term planning. All this is happening without adequate public consultation and consequently biasing the interest of the very future generations Uhuru Kenyatta was referring to in his ivory burning speech earlier this year.
The importance of infrastructure projects like the Standard Gauge Railway for the economic development of the country and the East African region is obvious and beyond dispute. Highly questionable however are the costs of hastened implementation and poor planning of such mega-projects not only to the tax payer but also and irreversibly to unique wildlife conservation areas such as the Nairobi National Park. This questionability increases as there are a variety of alternative tracks and traces on the table that do not compromise the state’s duty to eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment, as stated in the constitution of Kenya.
- The rugged terrain between Nairobi and Naivasha has almost doubled the cost of the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)
- State to spend extra Sh18b on SGR land compensation
The Southern Bypass Saga – Nairobi National Park succumbs to illegal property acquisition
The Chinese sponsored traffic decongestion project was approved in 2012 with blue prints distinctly featuring a trajectory along the north western border and outskirts of the park. However, ahead of implementation the allocated construction area was irregularly divided and sold to private developers.
Failure to resolve the illegal land acquisition and property development in court and increasing financial pressure arising from project interruption led to an adhoc relocation of the bypass through the park with completion end last month.
While the illegal structures occupying the originally approved sites are still standing, 53 acres of the globally unique natural heritage were meanwhile ceded to a four lane highway, to strategic chaos, dubious mismanagement and corruption.
Were there really no alternatives as we are made to believe by government and partnering Chinese sponsors? And the profits arising from this deal will they truly benefit future generations and will the judgement of these generations honestly ‘appreciate the decision we have taken today’?
Whilst these questions remain unanswered the next epic is well on its way transforming the Nairobi National Park into a vast rug covering yet more irregularities and mismanagement in the implementation of infrastructural projects.
- The Southern Bypass is not compliant with Kenyan law
- Stop the Southern Bypass from encroaching on Nairobi Park
- Environmental Impact Assessment 625 – Southern Bypass
- Southern Bypass – Grounds of Appeal – NGO coalition
The SGR – Two wrongs don’t make a right
Since the beginning of last year and as the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Nairobi and Mombasa is approaching the capital, reports have started circulating that the construction of the railway, similarly to the Southern Bypass, now too is to be ‘re-aligned’ through the National Park.
A first re-alignment proposal for the original trace between Athi River and Mlolongo feeding the capital city is already under construction and in addition to the manifest intrusion by the Southern Bypass cuts off further 90 hectares from the park ‘to – as stated in the underlying Environmental Impact Assessment – avoid demolishing culturally significant developments and economical high value installations that will require heavy compensation, and to make it more economic to construct the railway line.’
Whilst we await proof of the culturally significant developments and economically high value installations and how they would have had to be demolished by the original plan approved in 2012, we need to ask – again – if this irreversible trade, adding an ecologically nonviable pressure to the park truly represents ‘doing the right thing’?
But the entrenchment plans do not end here. In addition to the Mlolongo stretch already under construction another controversial proposal surfaced earlier this year, this one carving an outrageous 16 kms deep into the park. With public information and the media now finally tuning into the debacle this proposal however could be stopped in court last minute.
We sincerely hope this turn of events can establish a trend as yet another plan to cut off the entire southern park boundary, the only open boundary constituting important migratory routes, is still alive.
These encroachments, whilst we are made to believe that they are minimal, are in fact serious as they represent a strong devaluation of environmental interests and precedence for future destruction.
- Controversial Railway Splits Kenya’s Parks, Threatens Wildlife
- SGR Environmental Impact Assessment Study
- KUAPO: Say no to Proposed Realignment of SGR through the National Park
- KUAPO Submission (NEMA)
- KRC / SGR WENT MUM
Where there is no plaintiff, there is no crime
The good news is that legal tools for preventing such encroachments are well in place.
The bad news however: these regulations are being heavily bent whilst hardly anyone is watching.
Kenya since 2010 boasts a new constitution and a strong environmental act including many notices that can efficiently protect the country’s wildlife heritage.
Article 69 of The Constitution of Kenya further clearly states that every person has a duty to cooperate with State organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources thereby calling upon you to get involved.
There are many things you can do:
Create awareness in your networks and share the information we have gathered
Help the coalition of non-profits who are working to stop further encroachment into the park. These include:
- The Conservation Alliance of Kenya
- The East African Wildlife Society
- Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations
- Friends of Nairobi National Park
Contribute to facebook groups and relevant blogs
If you are an organization supporting the NNP, become an author of this blog and let our visitors know how they can help you achieve your goals
Submit background information and relevant links and discussion forums to this blog
Take part in the site’s poll and help gather voices against further destruction of the NNP and supporting the listing of NNP as World Heritage site.
Local problems, a global concern – the Nairobi National Park as World Heritage Site
In times of climate change and the continuous loss of global biodiversity, ecological concerns such as the down grading of the NNP have long ceased to be a national cause only, but require global awareness and support.
The protection of Nairobi National Park over the past decades from the great pressure it is exposed to by the growing African metropolis is a unique and grand cultural tribute of the Kenyan people to their natural heritage and as one of the largest and last urban wildlife sanctuaries in the world next to a capital city we believe the park represents a unique ecosystem, has outstanding universal value and deserves a global effort to support and protect its survival and encourage all efforts geared towards declaring it a World Heritage site.
Have your say on this too in our Nairobi National Park Survey!
Only the Kenyan government can nominate places for entry on the World Heritage list. With the ongoing degrading and steady elimination of the Nairobi National Park by the Kenyan government a listing of the Nairobi National Park would have to be supported by the people of Kenya and around the World.