The East African Wild Life Society is raising concern that the impacts of the proposed Standard Gauge Railway to Naivasha is extending beyond the Nairobi National Park to other critical ecological systems. This is after a routine fact finding mission of 20th March 2017 by EAWLS established the presence of beacons and demarcations in Oloolua Forest placed by a group of Chinese in the company of armed men.

The society has received confirmation that the SGR will pass through the forest, a clear deviation from the SGR EIA report which indicated that the line would avoid the forest ecosystem (Ngong Hill Nature Reserve). This shocking development is a result of the unwillingness by Kenya Railways to make public the exact route co-ordinates of the railway (against the Access to Information Act, 2016) if not non-compliance with the EIA report and compromises effective integration of environmental aspects into the development in a proactive way. Attempts by EAWLS to get exact area of the excision out of the 661 acres of the Oloolua forest has not been successful. EAWLS will continue to analyse the impacts of SGR on critical natural ecosystems beyond NNP and calls on all conservation organisations, stakeholders and the public to be on the lookout and voice out any concerns.

EAWLS also calls upon the Kenya Railways to adhere to the terms and conditions of the EIA licence and make public the specific route co-ordinates of the Phase 2A of the SGR to pave way for effective and proactive engagement with stakeholders/public to ensure optimal mitigation of the adverse effects of the development on the natural systems. EAWLS also call upon the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Kenya Railways to constitute a multi-stakeholder group to monitor the construction of the SGR and ensure that all mitigation measures as prescribed in the EIA report are adhered to.

Oloolua Forest is one of the green spaces and remaining forests in Nairobi of great ecological importance. It is a fragmented tropical dry forest in an urban setting that provides increasingly important link to nature conservation mainly to Nairobi National park, Ngong Hills and other adjacent wildlife areas.

It is very ironical that such unfortunate revelations comes at a time when Kenya joins the rest of the World in celebrating the International Day of Forests, marked on 21st March every year. Indeed Kenya’s commitment to forest conservation must be demonstrated by ensuring that all critical forest ecosystems are protected and that the rule of law is strictly followed in cases where development interact with critical ecosystems like Oloolua forest.