NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK HOW LONG WILL THE DEFENCES HOLD
Sections of Kenya conservation fraternity have described plans to carve out over 150 acres from the Nairobi National Park the beginning of the end fearing that once the precedent has been set, the flood gates will open even more in the future. The next thing will be that they propose a railway, or the expansion of Wilson Airport, or simply grabbing park land to make space for new housing estates, so where does it stop. If we cannot prevent this highway routing nothing will ever stop our notorious landgrabbers from eventually swallowing up the park bit by bit. And it is also a bigger issue as the same Highway Authority has already tried before to also do the same with Nakuru National Park to run a highway through it a regular source from Nairobi said on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from what was described as vindictive and potentially murderous individuals set to benefit enormously from carving up the park land for huge profits.
It became public knowledge last week that the Kenyan government was intent to have the new proposed Southern Bypass run through the park from near the location of the Ole Sereni Hotel on Mombasa Road, creating an admittedly much needed new traffic artery in particular for traffic destined beyond Nairobi but at the same time breaking past promises and commitments to never touch the sacred land set aside for the worlds only national park adjoining a capital city.
Only weeks ago had the same governments Highway Authority made conciliatory noises towards conservationists, led by Friend of Nairobi National Park or in short FoNNaP, and had reportedly made verbal commitments to Dr. Paula Kahumbu when she raised the issue of the bypass routing and the anticipated negative fallout for game migration in and out of the park, with key staff of this government body. FoNNaP had at the time even produced a map to show exactly how problematic the anticipated routing would be, which is courtesy of FoNNaP again reproduced here for the information of readers: www.fonnap.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/niarobi-map-2.jpg
Regular sources from Nairobi have also suggested that Kenya Wildlife Service has been offered 1.8 billion Kenya Shillings in compensation should they consent to let go of the targeted land. This land however falls into a tree belt planted over the past two years with the support of the top 50 names in Kenyas corporate world, who may equally feel that they have been duped by a government known to work using U-turns and somersaults to confuse its real intent and hide it from the public. It is understood that some 50.000 trees may have to be cut should the routing follow the present proposed route.
Sources close to KWS have in turn already demanded substantially more in terms of financial compensation PLUS the allocation of at least a further 1.000 acres of land adjoining the park in other locations, to make up for the loss, should government as is generally expected try to use compulsory methods of acquiring the land they want for the construction of the Southern Bypass. That exchange land however too is reportedly owned by individuals who may seek full compensation at market values, making the proposed swap transaction one of the most expensive ever for the Kenyan government. Said one source in regular contact with this correspondent: Mind you, this is the prerogative of parliament to decide to alter boundaries of protected areas like national parks, and the way things are between government and parliament, and with elections coming up later this year, and a long legislative agenda to be tackled before the current house is dissolved, this may not happen anytime soon. But believe me, the pressure is on KWS now and there is a lot of horsetrading going on behind the scenes as well as promises of big jobs in the future for those who come around and for those opposing that their careers will for all purposes be over for good.
The nearly 29 KM long dual carriage highway, aka Southern Bypass, is to connect the highway from Mombasa and the main traffic artery from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the inland highway to Naivasha and Nakuru and beyond, allowing transit traffic, mostly heavy trucks, to avoid Nairobis ever congested Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki Way, which runs directly along the Central Business District and is a main route for commuters into the city centre. Time will tell how this saga is playing out, but the stage is now set for an epic battle between the conservation fraternity and the Kenya government similar to the fight across the border against the Serengeti Highway. There all eyes are glued to the 15th March calendar date when the East African Court of Justice is going to decide on whether to grant a permanent injunction to the plaintiffs, restricting the Tanzanian government to start any building activity, and Kenyan conservation sources have already vowed to sue also in the EACJ in Arusha, should the routing of the Southern Bypass not be substantially revised and revisited. Watch this space, but in the meantime see some of the previous articles filed here as additional reference to the topic at hand.
Below are the links of some of the previously filed articles also referring to the threats now unfolding against Nairobi National Park, for ease of access: