According to reliable information received yesterday, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reached an agreement with government to excise an additional 216 acres of land from the Nairobi National Park, over and above the nearly 90 acres already allocated, to complete the missing link of the Southern Bypass Highway. This brings the entire area along the present park boundary due to be degazetted to around 300 acres, something the tourism industry strongly dislikes.
While some conservationists have already vowed to take the matter to court, others quietly accepted the deal, expressing, as done in the past, their hope that KWS can use the deal to extract maximum payback from the government on several fronts.
It has been suggested that for one alternative, land must be given to KWS to add to the park, and in a multiple of at least 3 times the area taken for the railway and highway routing. A round figure of about 1,000 acres of added land has been given to this corresponded by 2 different sources.
Other demands made and hopefully tabled by KWS are assurances that the few migration routes still open in and out of the park be equally given protected status to ensure that at least some injection of new DNA is assured in the long term. Additional funding is also in the cards for KWS to reward their practical approach to the inevitable, given that the government has the votes in parliament to, should it come to that, formally remove the section along the boundary to reduce the overall protected area.
Many have also demanded that the tree buffer, planted by major Kenyan corporate entities along the present park boundary, which will have to make way for both the highway and the railway, be restored further into the park and that the Kenyan government be made to fund this exercise as part of their settlement with KWS.
Finally, the issue of Lake Nakuru National Park was raised, which road planners had also targeted to route a section of the planned bypass around Nakuru municipality through the park land, and demanded of KWS that such a deal would not be struck and the road planners find an alternative route around the park.
From feedback received until a short while ago, it appears that the majority of those who volunteered their opinion, albeit in a resigned way, accepted the deal and now want to move on without wasting further resources on fighting a battle with government which would be reminiscent of Don Quixote fighting the windmills.
What, however, was and remains alarming is that a small section of the conservation fraternity used their justified opposition against using parkland for the new Singita Grumeti Reserves (SGR) to run riot over the reputation and character of Alan Donovan, the owner of the highly-acclaimed African Heritage House. These attacks can only be described as rabid in nature, way overboard, and way over what can be seen as acceptable coming from people who until that moment claimed to occupy the moral high ground. At the risk of being equally vilified by the same individuals, as has happened on previous occasions when independent thoughts were voiced which differed from their opinion, this just had to be said and perhaps the mention here might result in an apology to Alan, which would be the decent thing to do. For certain, this correspondent will judge those involved in how they proceed from here on.
That all said, the case will continue to receive close attention as will future such cases where demands are made to carve out park land for motives of profit, such as high-class gated estates, attempting to use the present circumstances to claim a precedent was set after all. Any such land grabbing schemes will categorically be opposed to the maximum, as they should be, but for now it is time to move on and close the chapter of the Southern Bypass and the SGR route.