Today is the deadline for commenting on the environmental impact assessment of the proposal to route the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Phase II A through Nairobi National Park. I urge all citizens and people around the world who care about Nairobi Park to communicate their concerns to NEMA’s Director General Geoffrey Wahungu. Here’s why you should write now to demand that NEMA rejects Kenya Railways’ application to run a railway through Park:
- Nairobi National Park is a priceless national asset: The new rail line will be boon for the economy. Opponents of the route through the Park all agree that it should be built. Nairobi Park is also a boon for the economy, but it is much more than that. It is a symbol of our national identity and Kenya’s leadership of wildlife conservation in Africa, a wildlife sanctuary of global significance, and a unique and irreplaceable resource for the health, well-being and education of our citizens.
- We can’t take the risk: There are those who argue persuasively that the raised construction of railway will mitigate damage to the Park and safeguard its wildlife. But we simply can’t afford to take the risk—and we don’t have to, as there other viable routes available.
- Kenya’s reputation is at stake: Just a few months ago, the eyes of the world were on Kenya as President Kenyatta set fire to our ivory stockpiles and declared that elephants are “worth more alive”. This courageous stand was inspired by the understanding that our national heritage is more important than short-term economic expediency. Taking the wrong decision now will significantly damage Kenya’s international reputation as a world leader in conservation, and the image and name of our President as Africa’s number one champion for wildlife.
- It will set a dangerous precedent: This decision is about more than Nairobi Park, it is about our vision for the future of our continent. Allowing the railway to go through the Park will make it more difficult to defend all the other parks and reserves, forests and other areas of national heritage threatened by similar development projects. It will also set a precedent for the rest of Africa.
- It’s our democratic right and duty: This is about process as well as outcomes. Kenya has procedures and laws in place to regulate decisions about development projects. But governments will only respect these procedures if we, as citizens, show that we care and exercise our democratic right to take part in the process to demand that they do so.
- It’s for our grandchildren: As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Kenya is legally obliged to pursue forms of development that are compatible with environmental conservation. African nations have a duty to honour these commitments, in order to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.
With the election of a climate change denier to the White House, it is clear that, in an increasingly uncertain world, Africans can no longer rely on others to fight our battles for us. It is our responsibility safeguard the future of the continent for our children and grandchildren. A courageous decision to adopt an alternative route will establish Kenya’s leadership of efforts to achieve sustainable development for Africa and its people, while protecting wildlife and the environment.
In the 70 years since the Park was gazetted, Nairobi residents have come to take it for granted, and it has been underused. But now and in the future it will be needed more than ever as a refuge from the frenetic pace and stress of city life. Now is not the time to cut the Park in two. We need a new plan for the Park that will transform it into a living resource for the benefit of all our citizens, as those who founded it intended it to be.
Today is the deadline for submitting comments to National Environment Management Authority – Kenya. Please write your note to [email protected] and cc [email protected] so that we can hand deliver a physical copy of your letter today (pls send before 2pm)
This article by Dr. Paula Kahumbu was first published on the Daily Nation on 25th November 2016