Fearing for lions, giraffes and zebras, demonstrators in Kenya are planning to protest against an historic rail scheme being built by a Chinese group that runs through Nairobi National Park.
Even though the 6-km section of railway is raised 8 metres off the ground, they say it threatens wildlife and people.
Conservationists settled on street action next week to protect the wildlife sanctuary after their case was dismissed by the country’s National Environment Tribunal (NET) this week, on 6 March.
The NET said it cannot stop construction of the section of railway, which China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) started building last month, because it had no jurisdiction on the matter.
NET said a similar case lodged by CRBC was pending in Kenya’s High Court.
Campaigners said CRBC, a subsidiary of the giant China Communications Construction Company, was defying a June order by NET to halt construction inside the sanctuary, which is Kenya’s oldest park.
The section begins the Nairobi-Navaisha standard gauge railway, which is part of Kenya’s grand plan for a railway stretching from its commercial and port hub of Mombasa all the way to its landlocked neighbours, through Nairobi. The Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi leg opened in May 2017.
Activists demonstrated in Nairobi last week, but said they will return to the streets and may appeal to the High Court, Reuters reported.
"We intend to do another demo next week when the Chinese Premier will be visiting," said Reinhard Bonke, a spokesman for Friends of Nairobi National Park, a conservation group which was party to the petition.
The government has said it preferred the railway to go through the park, which abuts Nairobi’s city limits, rather than built up areas, which would mean procuring private land.
Activists said that although the railway is raised, with passageways underneath, the railway will still affect animals’ routes and breeding grounds.
But Paul Gathitu, a spokesman for the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service, told Reuters that human encroachment was more harmful to animals than the railway.
Image: A pair of giraffes run in a field in Nairobi National Park, Nairobi, Kenya (Wikimedia Commons)