Nairobi, April 30 (Swara) – The Environment and Land Court in Nyeri has extended the conservatory order against the Ihithe-Ndunyu Njeru road until June 3 to safeguard the Aberdare National Park and Aberdare Forest. Issued earlier this month, the injunction stops the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) or its agents from proceeding with the planned road construction through the protected areas or engaging in related activities.

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) filed the case, and the court sitting in Nyeri on April 29 granted respondents ten days from that date to respond to the application seeking Conservatory Orders. An additional five days were allocated to address various applications for rejoinders of interested parties.

Previously, on April 15, 2024, the court issued a conservatory order halting the construction of the Ihithe-Ndunyu Njeru Road, which traverses the Aberdare National Park and Aberdare Forest. This order remains in effect pending an inter-partes hearing scheduled for June 3 before the Environment and Land Court Judge in Nyeri.

In its arguments, EAWLS raises significant concerns regarding the proposed route’s potential environmental and livelihood impacts. Publicly available information suggests the existence of an alternative route, the Kariamu-Ndaragwa Road. Petitioners express deep concern over the failure of the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) to consider this substitute path, highlighting the urgency of the situation. Public records indicate that the alternative thoroughfare offers efficient connectivity between Nyeri and Nyandarua counties and promises to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, and cultural effects on the protected ecosystem.

Petitioners strongly emphasize the importance of sustainable road infrastructure development, a commitment aligned with Kenya’s Constitution and the country’s development blueprint – Vision 2030. This underscores our shared responsibility in preserving our environment and ensuring a sustainable future.

The Aberdare National Park, a potential UNESCO World Heritage site, hosts numerous rare and critically endangered wildlife species, including the mountain bongo antelope. The proposed road not only threatens these rare species but also endangers the vital water tower function of the Aberdare, which supplies 80% of the water used by farmers, communities, and Nairobi through Ndakaini and Sasumua dams.

Public records indicate KeNHA’s previous proposal in 2009 to upgrade the Ihithe-Ndunyu Njeru Murram road, which operates within legal hours. However, concerns about its potential environmental impact led to the denial of a licence by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). Despite this, NEMA recently issued a licence for KeNHA to construct a bitumen highway through the park, prompting legal action from a coalition of conservation organisations and lawyer Lempaa Suyanka earlier this year.

The extension of the conservatory order underscores the critical need to protect the Aberdare National Park and Forest from further environmental degradation and preserve its biodiversity for future generations.