Chinese firm says SGR project will not affect Kenya's wildlife heritage

Updated 2018-04-13 10:10:04 Xinhua

The Chinese firm extending Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Kenya's Nairobi to Naivasha has said the project will not affect the health of the country's wildlife heritage and other ecological treasures along its corridor.

Steve Zhao, the spokesperson for the Kenya SGR Head Office, said sound environmental regulations will be observed during the construction of Phase 2A of SGR which passes through a national park and other biodiversity hotspots.

Zhao clarified that construction of the Super Bridge along Nairobi National Park that was previously opposed by environmental groups, was given a green light by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the environmental watchdog since it posed negligible threat to animals and plants.

"We are committed to adhering to the recommendations set by KWS in efforts to offer minimal disruption to the flora and fauna in the national park," Zhao told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"As for the super bridge construction organization, the electric fence enclosure to isolate pillar sites should be divided into two stages, in order to ensure that animals in the park will move freely during the construction period and their migration will not be affected," he added.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in October 2016 launched the construction of 120-km Nairobi-Naivasha SGR project financed by China.

Zhao said construction of the modern railway line that is expected to open up Kenyan hinterland for businesses and investments has progressed well and could be completed next year.

"The construction of the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR Phase 2A is under various stages of completion under the respective section offices," said Zhao, adding that the contractor is committed to making sure the project is completed ahead of schedule.

Local and international environmental lobby groups have opposed construction of the 6-km super bridge along Nairobi National Park saying it could jeopardize the health of wildlife species.

Zhao said the contractor will implement best practices borrowed from phase one of the SGR project to ensure the Super Bridge does not harm iconic wildlife species at the Nairobi National Park.

"The CCCC (China Communications Construction Company) respects the efforts of wildlife protection contributed from all communities, institutions and organizations. What has been comprehensively acknowledged is that the Wildlife Protection practices implemented during construction of SGR Phrase 1 is effective," said Zhao.

He added that the contractor will strictly adhere to guidelines set by the KWS and the environmental watchdog to ensure the super bridge causes minimal disturbance to the soil, vegetation and animals.

"After the erection of the super bridge pillars is finalized, the SGR line over the national park will be fitted with an acoustic noise barrier whose specifications will be approved by the KWS to ensure that the noise do not increase significantly above the baseline levels," said Zhao.

He disclosed that the contractor will embark on vegetation and soil restoration along the super bridge corridor once it is completed.

"We have also worked with the KWS to screen the construction equipment to avoid the spread of invasive species such as Nicotiana glauca seeds attached to road construction machinery," Zhao said.

He added that adherence to globally accepted environmental standards will be extended to the escarpments and other scenic landscapes where the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR project will pass through.

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