Meeting gives nod to SGR construction in Nairobi park

Nairobi National Park/Photo: Courtesy

Construction of the Standard Gauge Railway in the Nairobi National Park yesterday received the nod from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) subject to an environmental assessment of the project.

KWS Chairman Richard Leakey however insisted that the mega undertaking would only receive his agency’s full backing if an environmental and social impact assessment on the route, expected to be done over a three month period, recommends that the railway does not pose threats or interfere with flora and fauna in the park.

The decision was arrived at after protracted negotiations between the KWS Board of Directors and the Kenya Railways Corporation.

The service and conservationists were adamant that the railway’s construction would compromise with the park’s natural integrity by interfering with animal behaviour.

“In the presentation the railway will go over the national park and not through it and that is very different,” Dr Leakey said.

The famed archaeologist however added a rider to his agency’s position saying that KWS and Kenya Railways would have to go back to the drawing board if the outcome of the assessment is positive.

“The environmental assessment is commencing now and is projected to take two and a half months,” Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina said.

The national park railway laying is the second phase of the SGR construction, staring from Nairobi to Naivasha.

The line passing through Kenya’s oldest protected area will be 6 kilometres long using a single-line bridge. The bridge pillar will be dug deep enough to reduce ground vibrations.

In addition, noise deflectors will be erected, to curb inhibit pollution from train locomotives which are usually noisy, inflected noise upwards rather than to the ground.

The bridge will on average be 18 metres above the ground, 8 metres at its shortest point and 41 metres at its highest.

The bridge will be constructed in three phases, the first 2.2 km, the second 2.1 km and the final 1.7 kilometres.

The second phase of the SGR construction, the Nairobi-Suswa route, will be financed mainly by the China Exim Bank to the tune of Sh150 billion.

Engineer Maina said that the 427-km first phase of the railway, from Mombasa to Nairobi, is 80% complete and is scheduled for opening by President Uhuru Kenyatta in mid-2017.

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