News is emerging from Nairobi that Kenya Railways Corporation has yielded to pressure and is reviewing the planned routing around Nairobi for the new Standard Gauge Railway system, which is due for completion of phase one by late 2017.
The planned incursion into Nairobi National Park was harshly condemned by conservationists and civil society leaders who were alarmed by the piece-meal destruction of key biodiversity and wildlife habitat areas in the park, after the Southern Bypass has already eaten its way into the park areas near the boundary between the Ole Sereni Hotel and the Carnivore Restaurant.
Pictures taken by this correspondent of the railway crossing the Tsavo East National Park support the concerns raised as there are significant sections of the new route run on an elevated solid foundation, making animal crossings all but impossible, restricting game movement to those areas where the railways are laid on elevated pylons.
It is understood that the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, under which the park falls, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, bolstered by the upcoming high-profile ivory burn of 105 tons, has raised her voice in opposition and apparently told the railways bosses that their planned routing through the park would not be tolerated and they better go back to the drawing board.
This is now apparently taking place but which routing – north or south of Nairobi – the new tracks will take remains a closely-guarded secret and is perhaps not even known at this stage to the technocrats.
Once phase one, connecting the port of Mombasa to Nairobi, is completed, the second phase, technically much more challenging due to the terrain, will take the railway to the border with Uganda. From there, under Ugandan supervision, the route is due to go further in to the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and South Sudan.
Nairobi National Park of late was hit by a series of predator excursions, linked to the construction activities of the Southern Bypass and other related activities, leading the most unfortunate shooting of an iconic male lion, Mohawk, for which the Kenya Wildlife Service came under sustained criticism which to date has not yet fully subsided. Other lion and game excursions were also recorded but ended in a more peaceful manner without sharp shooters killing any more of the already dwindling lion population in the park.