The National Environmental Tribunal has put brakes on the construction works on the Sh150 billion second phase of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project until an appeal filed by activist Okiya Omtata and wildlife conservationists is heard and concluded.
In an order signed on September 19, 2016 by chairman Jashon Awor, the tribunal ordered the Chinese contractor in the SGR project, China Road and Bridge, to stop all activities on the second phase of the project.
“The purpose of this letter therefore is to direct that all activities relating to the appeal in question must be stopped until the appeal is determined,” said the order from the tribunal.
In issuing the stop order, the tribunal relied on section 129 (a) of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act which requires projects that are subject to appeals to be halted when cases are filed.
Says the Act: “Upon any appeal to the tribunal under this section, the status quo of the matter or activity which is the subject of the appeal shall be maintained until the appeal is determined.”
According to the letter bearing the orders from the tribunal, Omtata and lobby group Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management filed the appeal against National Environment Management Authority (Nema) for failure to stop the railway project, which is currently under way without the benefit of environmental impact assessment licence “mandated and required by law.”
The second phase of the project, which is expected to stretch the railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, has faced combined opposition from local residents and conservationists.
Last month, the project was temporary halted after youths raided site camps and beat up Chinese workers and destroyed some of installations in the camp in Narok.The proposed SGR route that cuts through the Nairobi National Park. Photo Credit: The Star
Conservationists, mainly game trackers and tour companies, fear the route chosen by Kenya Railways and the ministry of Transport and Infrastructure for the project inside the Nairobi National Park is an attack on the park and will pave way for excising it to private individuals as well as poaching.
But whether the Chinese company will respect the order from the tribunal is another matter. Last year China Gezhouba Group Company, the contractor in a water abstraction project in Murang’a ignored the orders from the tribunal only stopping after the matter went to the High Court.
Incidentally, when the Tanzanian government announced plans to construct a road cutting through the Serengeti National Park, the Kenyan government were among those who voiced opposition leading to the cancellation of the project.
Kenya argued it was a threat to the annual wildebeest migration, a lucrative event in the region’s tourism calendar.