The government is staring at another round of confrontation with conservationists after it allowed the southern bypass road project to traverse through the Nairobi National Park.
The activists are opposed to the continued assault on the shrinking park land.
Transport Permanent Secretary John Mosonik on Friday last week oversaw the hand-over of 53 acres of the park to the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha).
The park will lose even more land when the standard gauge railway reaches Nairobi. There are reports the railway will cut through the park, so that a private mud house owned by American Alan Donovan is not demolished. The house was built on the edges of the park in 1989.
Activists are now accusing Kenha and KWS of not conducting another round of environment impact assessment for the road project according to the environment tribunal ruling of 2012.
Mosonik said the government was concerned that the road, stretching 28 kilometres, had lagged for more than six months. The stretch from Ole Sereni Hotel, through Lang’ata, will take away 53 acres of park land.
Kenha director general Peter Mundinia said Sh3.5 billion endowment fund had been set aside to cater for any damages that may arise as a result of human-wildlife conflict.
“We will have to immediately fence the area to prevent human wildlife conflict as a result of animals coming in contact with human being,” he said.
The southern bypass project is being funded by the China Exim Bank at Sh17 billion, Kenha said.
Mosonik said a seven-month delay could have attracted claims but the project is now expected to benefit Kenyans who have had to endure huge traffic snarl-ups.
Private motorists using the road also contend with rising cases of insecurity.
But Kenha board chair Erastus Mwongera said authority will secure road users once the project is completed.
The road is expected to ease congestion along the busy Mombasa Road and is expected to be completed by 2016.
Mundinia said the National Environment Management Authority gave the project a clean bill of health.
“We know human beings and animals have to co-exist. This makes it easy for Kenha to build the road. We have given out this land. It has been tough negotiations,” acting chairman of KWS board of trustees Peter Kinyua said.
Kinyua said they had a lot of deliberation before reaching a “hard decision”.
The land is a four-kilometre stretch from the Ole Sereni hotel junction on Mombasa Road to Langata Road at the Carnivore Restaurant junction.
The Friends of Nairobi National Park, a local NGO, have now written to Kenha demanding to see the agreement between them and KWS.
The letter, also signed by the East Africa Wildlife Society and WildlifeDirect among other groups opposed to the project, was sent through Mereka and company advocates on November 2.
They also want Kenha and KWS to confirm if they have appointed “a lead expert to conduct EIA and his or her full particulars to enable our clients to be enjoined in public participation noting that technical report dated April 2015 is not EIA report”.
The law firm has threatened to drag KWS and Kenha back to a tribunal should they fail to communicate within seven days.
Environment cabinet Secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu told the Star there is no need for a new EIA. She said the old EIA would suffice.
She also said no heavy equipment will be taken by the contractor to the site until the area has been fenced off.
“I have given instructions to Kenha and the contractor that they should keep the park as intact as possible and if any ecosystem is destroyed, they will be held responsible,” she said. The CS said information about the contract will be shared with the public “in a few weeks”.
The conservation groups have long opposed the continued hiving off of the park land, warning that it is degenerating into a zoo.
They also oppose ceding park land for the standard gauge railway. WildlifeDirect director Dr Paula Kahumbu said the railway could cut through the endangered park, in a new redesign to avoid demolishing the private mud house owned by Donovan, who calls it “African Heritage House”.
Donovan was quoted in the media saying he had been assured by the foreign ministry his house would not be touched.
“A new route for SGR has been proposed, which will enter Nairobi National Park to avoid damaging Alan Donovan’s house. We discovered Alan had his home registered as a national heritage in December 2014 to prevent the railway from damaging it,” Kahumbu said in a statement in June.