Kenya’s National Environmental Tribunal on Thursday issued an order halting the construction of the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Nairobi and Naivasha as it considers whether a proper environmental impact assessment was carried out ahead of the project’s implementation, the Standard online website reported.

“It is clear when there is an appeal to the tribunal concerning environmental issues, the status quo is maintained until the dispute is determined,” the tribunal’s ruling stated. “Thus, this is to direct that all activities relating to construction of Phase 2A of the SGR be stopped until the appeal is determined.”

Construction of the railway is being challenged by Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management and activist Okiya Omtatah. The lobby has argued that the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) irregularly awarded Kenya Railways Corporation an environment impact assessment license allowing it to proceed with the project.

The petitioners maintain that the licence was hurriedly issued in controversial circumstances and without consultations with institutions responsible for wildlife and environment conservation.

“The report the licence is based upon has serious flaws, including being inconsistent with the legal framework governing environment protection. It assumes other agencies will supervise the construction when the contract is exclusively given to a foreign entity,” said the conservation lobby.

Conservationists, including the East African Wildlife Society, have been particularly critical of the decision to route the railway through the Nairobi National Park, which they said ignored the railroad’s effect of wildlife.

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