It has come to our attention that the Kenya National Highways Authority (KNHA) intends to initiate construction of a highway dubbed the “The Greater Southern Bypass” which passes just south of the Nairobi Park (see attached map).
We reported a while ago that the Minister for Roads, Mr. Franklin Bett was planning a road called the Greater Southern Bypass south of the Nairobi Park which threatens the wildlife migration.
If constructed along the proposed route, this road will effectively strangle Kenya’s oldest and one if her most important National Parks, and Nairobi’s greatest asset, the Nairobi National Park. The highway will sever the migration routes of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, Cokes hartebeests, eland, Grants gazelles, Thompsons gazelles, and many other wildlife species including endangered cheetah and lions which depend on the land south of the National Park. The Nairobi Park is dependent on this wildlife resource for its acclaim and the wildlife depends on the Park for its survival during the dry season.
Recent game counts conducted by the Friends of Nairobi national Park confirmed the extent of wildlife movements during this years wet season (May/June) during an ecosystem-wide aerial count conducted by the DRSRS and a ground count conducted by the local community. This count also revealed that the wildlife of the area is recovering well following severe declines in the past decade, no doubt due to the conservation efforts of organizations and commitment to conservation by the communities living in this area. This count was financed by AWF, WildlifeDirect, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) the local community and individual donors to assess the status of the wildlife and range lands for conservation.
Nairobi Park is a globally recognized model park because of it’s location in a capital city. It is Kenya’s oldest National Park and is visited by tens of thousands of visitors (both international and local) every year; is a major environmental education resource for Kenya and generates over US $500,000 annually from park fees alone. Nairobi Park is already considered endangered due to unplanned developments in the wildlife dispersal area.
Many organizations have long recognized the value of the dispersal area for the Nairobi Park including major donors including The World Bank, USAID, government departments including the Directorate of Resource Survey and Remote Sensing, the Kenya Wildlife Service, international agencies including the IUCN, The African Wildlife Foundation , the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the International Livestock Research Institute, the East African Wildlife Society, local NGOs including Nature Kenya, the Friends of Nairobi Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service, The Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, and the African Conservation Center. On the ground the Wildlife Foundation has worked vigorously to maintain the open ecosystem by supporting land leases in Kitengela which effectively double the area of land under protection by enlisting over 350 individual community land owners in conservation.
The proposed road will further endanger an already severely threatened ecosystem and all of the investment made to date will have been wasted if the road is constructed as planned. In the published draft Wildlife Bill 2011 (you can download it here) Nairobi National Park Nairobi as well as the Athi-Kitengela & Kaputei Plains, Machakos ranches is listed as critically endangered due to blockage of migration route, land subdivision and urban sprawl. This proposed road will contribute to further endangering the already endangered ecosystem.
The proposed Greater Southern Bypass route will further degrade the entire ecosystem by adding significantly to wildlife movement barriers. Studies on wildebeest migrations conducted by the Colorado State University have confirmed that the Namanga highway is already a major barrier for wildlife movements eastwards from Nairobi National Park. This new road will halt southwards migrations effectively cutting the park wildebeest off from teh larger ecosystem.
Significantly, this proposed road will nullify the enormous investments made by local communities towards investments in the wildlife resource.
The road as proposed, will lead to the subdivision of the Portland Ranch which is a dry season haven and critical calving zone for the Athi Kapiti wildlife (cheetah zebra, wildebeest and kongoni) and an integral part of the upcoming Athi Kapiti Conservancy. This will also impact the ability of the Maasai to retain their pastoral way of life and rich culture associated with it, thus further impoverishing this community. The Draft Bill recommends strategic zoning through development of spatial frameworks and Master Plans. This planning is already well underway and the Kajiado County Council has completed an integrated development plan for the Kitengela/Isinya/Kipeto area that recognizes the significance of nature based enterprises, open rangelands for pastoralism and environmentally sustainable land uses. This plan was adopted by the Ministry of Lands in February 2010 and is to be launched any day by the Minister for Lands. In addition this bypass will add greatly to air, water, and land pollution through urban sprawl and slum development.
The Kenya Land Conservation Trust is assisting with the creation of the Athi Kapiti Conservancy and with other conservation organizations, communities, land owners and institutions, seeks to hold dialogue with the Ministry of Roads and the Kenya National Highways Authority with the aim of raising concerns about the devastating impact of this road.
KLCT proposes that the KNHA exlpores alternative routs that are less damagign to the environment and people. Simply upgrading the existing road network south of the Nairobi Park via Malili, Konza, Isinya, Kiserian and Ngong for example could work.
Conservation organizations are cognizant of the importance of infrastructure development for the national good, however, what we are advocating for is a social and environmentally sensitive approach. We believe that infrastructure development needs to be planned appropriately.
We as FoNnaP have been to the National Environmental Authorith and so far have not found an EIA regarding this Greater Southern Bypass.
We believe that the Kenyan government will do the right thing if given the right information and if they listen to the voices of concerned citizens. This is not the first time that conservationists have countered a proposal of such magnitude. Some years ago a proposed road bisecting the Aberdares range was abandoned in favour of a route circumventing this critical habitat following presentations from major conservation organizations. This is an example of conservation development happening with proper planning. Moreover, the Kenya Government lobbied strongly with other organizations for the cancellation of the Serengeti Highway which would have devastated the great wildebeest migration thus damaging a world heritage as well as Kenya’s tourism asset in the Mara.
As conservationists, communities, land owners, developers and citizens, we do not doubt the importance of the development of the city of Nairobi as a regional hub for Eastern Africa. However, we insist that the development plans for the city must safeguard the globally important wildlife asset of Nairobi Park and it’s lifeline, the Kitengela and greater Athi Kapiti dispersal area.
We are urging the KNHA to explore alternative routes for the Greater Southern Bypass which are in line with commitments made by the government of Kenya including Vision 2030 environmental pillar to keeping critical wildlife corridors open. The City of Nairobi has been branded “The Green City in the Sun” and the Prime Minister has launched an initiative called the “Greening of Kenya”.
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