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A city, a road and a national park: Which way for Nairobi?

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Photo/Courtesy of Paolo Torchio  The Nairobi National Park against the backdrop of the city skyline.

Photo/Courtesy of Paolo Torchio The Nairobi National Park against the backdrop of the city skyline.  

By SHEYA ALI

Posted  Friday, March 9   2012 at  16:46

In Summary

  • A win-win solution is keeping the Nairobi Southern Bypass on its original path which is outside the park, and constructing a 200-metre tunnel at the end of Wilson Airport, similar to the one at the Pangani-Forest Road. By Sheya Ali.
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The Kruger National Park in South Africa is world famous because the South African are masters at marketing.

Consider this: Within 18 years of coming out of the Apartheid era, when all they relied on was local tourism, the tourism industry has grown to over 10 million arrivals annually while tourist numbers are growing by more than a million annually.

In comparison, Kenya has been receiving fewer than two million international arrivals since Independence 50 years ago, and yet ironically, tourism is one of the key pillars of Vision 2030.

Consider this too. Kruger National Park is 16,000 square kilometres while the Nairobi National Park is 117 square kilometres, yet Nairobi National Park’s wildlife inventory as of 2011 is 108 mammals versus the 128 species found in Kruger.

Even though Nairobi National Park is 37 times smaller than Kruger, it has almost the same number of animals as Kruger — and this is not taking into account the 630 species of birds.

(Nairobi takes pride of place as the birding capital of the world with 342 species recorded in a day thanks partly to the Nairobi National Park.)

Despite all these good things, plans are afoot to hive off four kilometres from the park to pave way for the Nairobi Southern Bypass to ease the city’s traffic congestion.

Nobody loves traffic, especially when it takes more than two hour’s to do a two-kilometre stretch.

But cutting through the park is not the perfect solution in view of the impact it will have.

The alternative, according to researchers, is not “not to build the highway” but to build it in an alternative fashion that would not have a negative impact the park.

The park is famously marketed as the park in a city with wild lions and rhinos and a sanctuary for both black and white rhinos against the backdrop of the ever growing skyscrapers and concrete jungle.

A group of concerned citizens under the umbrella of Friends of Nairobi National Park have been at the forefront of searching for viable alternatives for the road that threatens to destroy irreplaceable wildlife habitats — including the nesting site for the African Crowned Eagle, one of the largest raptors on earth that has occupied the same nest for more than a decade.

Commenting on the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) licence No.0008121 dated February 18, 2011 to the Kenya National Highways Authority for the construction of the Nairobi Southern Bypass, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare and other interested parties such as the Friends of the Nairobi National Park, say they have no objection to the development of badly needed infrastructure in Nairobi and Kenya as a whole.

But what the Kenya National Highways Authority has proposed regarding the Nairobi Southern Bypass, according to information available to Africa Network Animal Welfare and others, will encroach 120 metres into the park, creating a transport corridor of about four kilometres long.

Even though the licence stipulates that the Kenya National Highways Authority shall ensure that the sections of the road along the Nairobi National Park, Ngong and Dagoretti natural forests should be implemented in close consultations and agreement with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, and other relevant authorities, the road plans show otherwise.

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