The Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK or Alliance) is an umbrella body of organizations that values the biological diversity and natural resources of Kenya, and embraces viable development objectives that are in the national interest of and benefit to Kenyans. The Alliance respects the environment and works to support the government of Kenya in fulfilling its obligations with respect to the environment as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya through sound, scientific advice on conservation and development matters of public interest.

The Alliance has recently learned of the dire and imminent threat that the Nairobi National Park is facing with respect to the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a mega infrastructure project of national importance and one that ought to carry an equal measure of due regard to environmental and social safeguards. The Alliance has noted that the government is embarking on Phase 2 without due process as required by law being followed, including lack of adequate and proper stakeholder engagement, lack of an environmental study of options and public input, and lack of transparency on any feasibility studies conducted on the seven route options presented. Specifically, CAK has been informed by a Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), that the matter of selecting the ultimate route for phase 2A has been resolved with Option 4—the Modified Savannah Route—being the preferred and proposed option (see figure with the light blue line).

The Alliance believes there are clearly more reasonable alternatives including other options presented by the authorities. If the plan goes forward without any consideration of viable alternatives and procedural steps as required by law, Kenyans who deserve development will be defrauded of millions of shillings, endanger their environment and lose their heritage to satisfy the special interests of a few.

In response to these recent developments and revelations, the CAK held a special general meeting to discuss options and action points including:
Legal intervention: There is a current legal case by a Robert Kipkemboi to challenge the SGR process and seek an injunction to construction activities. Depending on the outcome of the petition, the CAK should consider becoming a party to the petition, and seek advice on the cost and reasonable beneficial outcome of this or CAK’s own independent legal endeavor.
The Alliance should demand that government departments (KWS, KRC) share any feasibility studies on the railway options presented. The CAK has issued letters to the Ministry, KWS and KRC to this effect.
Members were in agreement with suggestions above and proposed that CAK to undertake a pre-emptive assessment strategy, including:

  • Conduct a professional legal analysis of CAK’s options to enjoin the project through the park (while still allowing for a ceremonial launch) due to lack of due legal process from authorities. It was suggested CAK consult and draft terms of reference (ToR) with institutions such as the Katiba Institute on the cost benefits of suing.
  • Conduct studies (expedited) on the economic and technical ramifications of the various SGR routes presented; thus CAK should draft a ToR for a railway engineer consultant—CAK needs substantial information and evidence to build an environmental case.
  • Conduct an environmental assessment to reveal implications of short and long-term impacts of the SGR through the Park. It was suggested that Nature Kenya co-ordinate a team of expert consultants including Dr. Joseph Ogutu and others, on biological, ecological and ecosystem services baseline of the Park and vicinity.
  • The members agreed that a Stakeholder Meeting was necessary: Paula Kahumbu offered to organize the event and members agreed the first week of October was best for the meeting as most of the Kenyan experts will have returned from CITES engagement in September. The meetings would discuss infrastructure development, and rights, roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders in a neutral venue with a professional facilitator.
  • Financially, members should pitch in to cover costs implied herein. CAK should consider approaching the landowners who would be affected as potential funds donors too.

The Alliance supports viable development in Kenya but strongly condemns the manner that the SGR project is proceeding! The CAK thereby calls on the government including KWS and KRC to lay bare the economic, ecological and social arguments for choosing the Modified Savannah Route over other options, supported by scientific methods and in full consultation with experts, in order to ensure the integrity of this development process.

As Kenyans, we must continue to embrace the national values and principles that have built our nation into a strong, cohesive and democratic economy. If Kenyans continue to be vigilant of our right to a clean and healthy environment, together we can ensure that our hard won tax payers’ money, and our heritage are not pillaged by a select few in the name of ill advised ‘development’.

Comments are closed.