Proposed Sh4.4bn road through Aberdare to affect animals, plants – report

The 54km road will connect Nyeri and Nyandarua counties

In Summary

• The report shows there are 21 species out of 72 species in the Aberdare of mammals along the proposed road.

• The Aberdare Forest and its environs also host an estimated 418 bird species.

Aberdare Forest Image: /FILE
Aberdare Forest Image: /FILE

A number of animal and plant species in Aberdare National Park will be affected should the proposed Sh4.4 billion road cutting through it go on.

This is according to an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report in the possession of the Star.

The 54km road will connect Nyeri and Nyandarua counties. The government wants to upgrade it from earth to an all-weather surface

ESIA’s purpose is to assess and predict potential adverse social and environmental impacts and to develop suitable mitigation measures.

The Kenya National Highways Authority contracted Norken International Ltd to carry out the ESIA for the proposed upgrading of the road.

The ESIA team is comprised of Isaiah Kegora (lead EIA expert), Dr Dickens Odeny (lead EIA expert, biodiversity expert), Loise Kioko (associate EIA expert) and Beatrice Githinji (senior sociologist).

Others are Eng Kipchirchir Daniel Chepsiror (hydrologist), Eng Alex Wawire (highway engineer) and Joseph Muthike (surveyor).

The report shows there are 21 species out of 72 species in the Aberdare of mammals along the proposed road.

“Both sections [where the project will traverse] are dominated by elephants, buffalos, bushbucks and waterbucks,” the report says.

It however notes that the Aberdare Forest recorded a higher number of species of mammals due to the high concentration of species population in the park.

“Observation made on the proposed spur roads in Nyeri recorded an estimate of 19 species while and Nyandarua recorded 11 mammal species," the report says.

It says the species commonly observed were the white-tailed mongoose, four-striped grass mouse and the East African mole rats.

Others include the common slender mongoose and bat. There are seven bat species in the area.

The Aberdare Forest and its environs also host an estimated 418 bird species.

“The species recorded in Nyeri spur roads account for 106 bird species while in Nyandarua spur roads recorded 85 bird species. Out of these bird species, two are listed as endangered under the IUCN red list of threatened species, two are vulnerable, and four are near threatened,” the report says.

The government policy on all new projects requires that an ESIA be carried out at the planning stages.

The ESIA will assist Kenha and its consulting engineers in implementing the proposed project in adherence to sound environmental principles.

The report says Aberdare Forest and its environs have an estimated 1,260 plant species. 

However, during the survey, 199 were identified occurring along the proposed road in the forest, 95 species were recorded along Nyeri spur roads and 166 were on the proposed Nyandarua spur roads.

The report says the park is already infested with alien invasive plant species.

The implementers of the project say several hectares of the ecosystem will be eaten into by the project.

The report notes that around 104 hectares (256.9892 acres) of vegetation are lying in areas that will potentially be cleared.

Out of this, 75 hectares (185.32875 acres) of bamboo, 14 hectares of forest (34.5947 acres) and 14 hectares (34.5947 acres) of moorland will potentially be destroyed.

Twenty-eight kilometres of the proposed road in the protected areas is a bamboo vegetation zone.

The total length of the proposed road of forest (indigenous and exotic) is 5km and another 5km of the road in the moorland.

The reptiles and amphibians that inhabit the ecosystem are also set to suffer.

The report notes that the wider Aberdare landscape has an estimated 28 species.

The spur roads in Nyeri and Nyandarua recorded 21 species.

The report notes that higher biodiversity hotspots in Aberdare occur within the National Park from the central area to Mutubio Gate.

“These are areas with relatively higher species richness in the protected areas," the report says.

On the Nyeri side, a higher hotspot occurs in Amboni–Tree Top–Njegu section of the proposed spur road. In Nyandarua, areas with relatively higher hotspots occur between Koinange–Munyaka.

The road project is situated in Nyeri and Nyandarua counties.

The main section, which is approximately 49km starts at Ihithe takes a south-westerly course through the Nyayo Tea Zone and enters the Aberdare National Park.

The road then emerges from the park at Mutubio Gate.

From this gate, the road descends through a series of hairpin bends to Kahuruko.

The stretch between Mutubio Gate and Kahuruko (about 10km) is tarmacked.

From Kahuruko, the project road continues to descend and ends at its junction with the C69 Road at Ndunyu Njeru.

Other road sections included in the project are the Njengu-Treetops Gate-Amboni, the Ihithe-Kiamutiga-Mukarara, the Ark Gate Access, the Munyaka-Koinange-Heni–Mwendandu and the Njoma-Weru road sections, approximately 44km in length.

In September last year, Kenha was forced to suspend the project due to a lack of approval from key government agencies.

Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, and National Environment Management Authority declined to give Kenha the green light to proceed with the project.

This compelled Kenha to suspend the tender notice for a while as it pursued the approvals.

The site where the project cuts through are under the custody of KFS and KWS. The two agencies vehemently objected to the project.

Initially, Nema raised issues with the project.

On October 27, 2009, Nema said it had reviewed the environmental impact assessment report for the project after stakeholders raised issues.

Among the issues pointed out by Nema included the fact that the project had failed to provide alternative routes to mitigate the identified adverse impacts on the natural forest.

“The proposed project will have massive impacts on the natural forests during construction. It is possible that some endangered tree species may be affected,” Nema said in a letter dated October 27, 2009.

The letter referenced NEMA/EIA/5/2/421 from Nema was signed by M M Langwen and shared with Roads PS.

The letter warned that the negative impact of the project will be felt far and wide.

It said the Aberdare Forest was one of five water towers providing water to Nairobi and also feeds Lake Naivasha, the backbone of horticulture.

“The proposed mitigation measures are inadequate in terms of addressing the anticipated negative impacts,” the letter said.

“I wish to advise that the authority is of the view that the proposed project will not enhance sustainable development and sound environmental management. You are advised to re-design your plans or explore an alternative site.”

Conservation NGO Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, Africa Wildlife Foundation and East Africa Wildlife Society have rejected the project citing “possible serious environmental impacts to the Aberdare ecosystem”.

Rhino Ark says the fact that Kenha contracted Norken International Ltd to carry out the ESIA for the proposed upgrade yet the same firm is contracted to carry out the design of the road amounts to a major conflict of interest and shedding doubt about the unbiased nature of the ESIA report.

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