Nairobi, May 3 – Even as the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) through the Nairobi National Park (NNP) continues, a decision has been made to build a road on the eastern part of the Park in continuing blatant disregard for the integrity of the protected wildlife conservation area.

Kenya Railways proposes to construct the access road linking the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) and the Southern bypass road. The total length of the proposed access road is approximately 4.153 kilometres long and 21 metres wide.

Several stakeholders in the tourism sector have queried the soundness of the decision to yet again implement such an environmentally disruptive infrastructure project in an area rich in wildlife diversity.

“This means that the park will disappear,” said the manager of a hotel overlooking the park from where guests can enjoy the view of wildlife from the terrace restaurant. “And nobody seems to be taking any notice,” he added.

According to an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report prepared for the project, the road will connect the west entrance of the ICD running through the inner boundary of NNP and the “end will form a partial ‘pear-shaped’ interchange with the Southern bypass road.”

“Since the proposed project is designed to utilize land in the Nairobi National Park (NNP), it will impact on it negatively resulting in loss of habitat, vegetation, and compromising with the ability to provide vital ecosystem services,” states the report. “It may also cause change in wildlife behaviour due to disturbance effects that might be felt beyond the confines of the edges of the road.

“It is therefore recommended that the proponent in collaboration with relevant lead agencies compensates for wildlife habitat lost due to project activities both during construction and operational phase.”

The report acknowledges that the negative impacts to the NNP will be “long-term”, a clear understatement considering the double whammy of the SGR and the access road.

In his Paddock Diaries column in the April-July 2018 issue of Swara magazine, ornithologist and author Brian Finch emphasizes that “Nairobi is a Park that Kenyans should be proud of and enjoy, and it is a wonderful sight to see local families doing just that and more importantly they outnumber the tourists who are also having truly memorable experiences from their visitations.”

“NNP should be globally recognized, it is a world heritage, a wildlife arc for all sorts of living creatures in the midst of destructive, uncontrolled chaos. It is the birthplace that has sparked an interest and awareness amongst Kenyan youth and led to the creation of many great conservationists. We must fight to save it, so it can be enjoyed by future generations and not get swept up into the general degeneration of the environment that takes place at such alarming pace, largely under the guise of progress.”