One of the challenges the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project Phase 2A has to overcome is the threat it poses to the Nairobi National Park, a national treasure and a protected zone.  The first face of the SGR project is almost operational and the second phase has been launched. Phase 2A of the Mombasa-Malaba SGR is set to start from Nairobi South Station (DK0+00) and terminate at Enoosupukia (DK120) in Narok County. The railway construction will be done by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).  A feasibility study for the project was conducted in 2015; it recommended that the Phase 2A should pass through five counties including Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru and Narok. It will have a total length of 120km and 6 terminals.

It‘s envisioned that the SGR railway network in Kenya will address cargo handling problems resulting from the large number of container freights that arrive at the Port of Mombasa by sea and which are thereafter transported by road. The existing railway is aging and is said to have a number of negative environmental, economic and safety issues including high carbon emission, transport backlogs and frequent derailments. While the feasibility report for phase 2A recognizes as one of the problems of the current railway, its environmental impact, it does not exactly offer a solution to it. The SGR is a diesel powered network just like the old railway. Its passage through the park could even prove a death nail to the park that is beseeched on all sides by encroachment from developers and government.

The freight flow of this line will mostly consist of bulk cargos including containers, coal, fuel oil, petroleum products, and cement transported from Mombasa Port and Nairobi to Malaba. The line shall also meet the local passenger transport demands. The SGR project is one of Kenya‘s Vision 2030 flagship projects that is expected to play an important role in strengthening cooperation among East African Community (EAC) member states, whilst integrating and promoting regional economic development. It is however noteworthy that a lot has changed since Vision 2030 and the Northern corridor master plan were conceived. There is renewed interest in the Southern Corridor by EAC countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. This new development steals the thunder out of the Kenyan route or at least reduces its luster.

According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, the total estimated cost for the project is USD. 1,482,745,029.43  which does not include: land acquisition, demolition of various structures along the route, government VAT charges, duty and relevant taxes, financing loan interest and other expenses in need of Kenya government‘s entrustment. The report also estimates the constructions time taking into account the scale, standard, terrain and spatial distribution of all sections in the project. The total construction period is estimated to be less than 54 months.

The first 50km of Phase 2A presents a challenge of route selection due to the presence of the Nairobi National Park (NNP). To navigate through the stretch, seven different options were proposed from the Nairobi terminal up to the Kamangu area in Kiambu County beyond which all the different options converge. The seven route options proposed will affect the national park to different degrees. The distance between the stations ranges between 8.3-12.3Km depending on the technical design requirements, geographical position, human settlements, and local economic activities.

In the ESIA, the evaluation for the DK00-DK50 section was done according to the total Life Cycle Approach (LCA) which essentially includes the planning, feasibility, design, construction, operation and maintenance of railways. The evaluation criteria for the route alternative analysis were based on the EMCA (Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations 2003 and the guidelines in the EAC Transport Facilitation Strategy – Harmonization of Environmental Policies, Laws and Regulations (2012). The analysis of the route alternatives was done on the basis of four (4) thematic factors and twenty seven (27) environmental and social attributes. Based on the above evaluation criteria, the ESIA report made the following recommendations.

Route 1- Abandon

Route unsuitability: – High number of key utility crossings and passage through high density residential estates, many institutions and establishments which will lead to high displacement and resettlement cost. It has socio-economic impacts which include high number of potential noise and vibration receptors. There is a high number of affected ecosystems and potential disturbance of riverine ecosystems due to the high number of river crossings. The environmental impacts in Nairobi National Park for this route will lead to a huge loss of wildlife habitats because of the high potential disturbance of riverine ecosystems during the construction phase due to the high number of river crossings by the SGR in the park.

Route 2- Abandon

Route unsuitability: The route has a high number of obstructions on the right-of-way which include high density residential estates, institutions and establishments which will lead to high displacement and a huge resettlement cost. The associated high construction cost will over-burden the tax payer.

Environmental impacts in Nairobi National Park associated with route 2 in and over the NNP environment include: land excision which will lead to a huge loss of wildlife habitats, high loss of valued wildlife habitats, potential disturbance of the forest ecosystem in the NNP which is vital in watershed ecosystem services for wildlife water supply and air cleaning through carbon sequestration, high number of NNP vegetation types that will be affected, potential noise and vibration for sensitive receptors such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Sanctuary, and high visual impact due to the high number of NNP road crossings where visitors will directly view and interact with the SGR super bridge.

Route 3

Abandon this proposed route. Although it is the second best option, it will have the following negative impacts. On the environmental, it will lead to a high number of vegetation types affected, high visual impact due to a high number of NNP road crossings where park visitors will directly view and interact with the super bridge, potential interference of wildlife movements and disruption of habitat use are likely.

Route 4

According to the study this is the best and most suitable option. The route suitability is supported by direct connectivity with SGR-I from the Nairobi South Station, its shorter distance,  better route elevation and terrain suitability, lower number of key crossings through roads, narrow gauge railway, power lines & oil pipelines hence lower level of inconvenience during the construction phase, lower number of obstructions on the right-of-way hence low displacement and low resettlement cost, route directness and operation convenience which will mean cheaper costs in the long-term, lower construction cost which is good in saving tax payers money. The socio-economic impacts are limited and the route will lower number of potential human-oriented noise and vibration.

The environmental impacts in Nairobi National Park will limited because it will cover a shorter distance over the NNP in a viaduct instead of viaduct and embankment as in the other route options, it will lower the number of river crossings in the park and lower NNP land up take. It will have zero disturbances of the valued Park Forest and watershed ecosystem services. However, the route may have the following negative impacts which should be properly mitigated during the construction and operation phase:-

a) Visual impact since the route crosses through a number NNP roads used by tourists.

b) Impacts of noise, vibration and night-time linear light by moving trains on wildlife in the park

c) Inevitably it will affect some vegetation types especially during the construction phase.

Route 5

Abandon this proposed route due to the following adverse negative environmental effects. Route unsuitability is decided based on its indirect connectivity to the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line which will create engineering challenges in building of marshaling site at Nairobi South station turning, high degree of terrain unsuitability based on the SGR route requirements.

Environmental impacts of this route on the Nairobi National Park include encroachment of wildlife dispersal and migratory corridor at the southern section of the NNP which is the key wildlife movement landscape between NNP and the Kitengela Wildlife Dispersal Area. The route will also affect a high number of wildlife species and habitats.

Route 6

Abandon this proposed route due to the following adverse negative environmental effect associated with it. Route unsuitability include its indirect connectivity to the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line which will create engineering challenges in building of marshaling site at Nairobi South station. Environmental impacts in the Nairobi National Park include its encroachment into the wildlife dispersal and migratory corridor at the southern section of the NNP which is the key wildlife movement landscape between NNP and the Kitengela Wildlife Dispersal Area. It will affect a high number of wildlife species and habitats.

Route 7

Abandon route 7 as the worst of all the proposed route options. The route is unsuitable because; it offers indirect connectivity to the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line,  creating engineering challenges for the train marshaling area for turning back to Athi River, it‘s a long distance making the route more expensive to construct which is a disadvantage to the tax paper, unsuitable route elevation based on the SGR route requirements, high length of the super bridge needed which will make the construction more expensive in terms of time and money, high number of key crossings i.e. roads, narrow gauge railway, power lines & oil pipelines will make the construction more expensive in terms of time and money, operational inconvenience due to the turn-back to Athi River, extra annual operational cost, very long distance in the edge of NNP to construction a second line to Athi River .

The socio-economic impacts include a high number of potential noise and vibration receptors both people and wildlife. The number of affected ecosystems, potential disturbance of riverine ecosystems due to the high number of river crossings by the SGR is high.

The environmental impacts in Nairobi National Park include covering a very long distance in the edge of NNP, high NNP land excision which will lead to a huge loss of wildlife habitats to pave way for a second line back to Athi River town, high level of permanent loss of valued wildlife habitats due to park land encroachment due to construction of a second line to Athi River town, encroachment and possible blockage of the wildlife dispersal and migratory corridor at the southern section of the park which is their key movement landscape between NNP and the Kitengela Wildlife Dispersal Area, high number of park river crossings, high number of vegetation types in NNP to be affected as the railway line turns back to Athi River, high number of wildlife species that are likely to be affected due to the SGR turn-back to Athi River town and as it passes through the borderland between the south part of the park and the sheep and goat land,  the cumulative negative environmental impact for this SGR route in addition to the construction of the proposed Greater Southern Bypass will be disastrous to Nairobi National Park.

The most suitable route option

The overall score indicates that Route Option 4 – Nairobi South Station-NNP-Tuala Rongai-Nkoroi-Ngong–Kamangu Route (Light blue line) is the best option followed by option 3, then option 1 and option 5 while option 7 is the least preferred route followed by route 1, 2 and 6. The ESIA is based on option 4. The alignment for this route adopted starts from the western end of the Nairobi South Station (DK0+00) and runs on an embankment straight on in a north-east direction for approximately two  kilometers outside the NNP in a corridor to be acquired before making a bend in the south-western direction and entering the NNP near East Gate. It will then cross over the NNP through the savannah region in an almost straight line through a 15m way-leave Single Track in NNP along a 6km viaduct or super bridge consisting of precast T frame girders of an average height of 18m. The viaduct will lie parallel to option 6 on the right hand side, and is designed to allow for passage and general movement of wildlife and also ensure natural water flow in the park is not affected. The precast T-frames will have a low structural height of 20-30m to prevent interference with aircraft landings at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. T-frames will be factory pre-built with precise quality control and will also include a noise-deflector so as to reduce noise pollution during the operation phase. The T frame structure and span will be the same shape and size, and appearance and color will be enhanced to blend with the surrounding natural environment to reduce visual intrusion and impact. The SGR will exit the park near the Maasai gate, then turn west past Tuala and Ongata Rongai Towns then cross Magadi Road next to the Adventist University of Africa and then Ngong Road at Embulbul before heading to the Ngong Hills tunnel. From there it proceeds north-west to Kamangu and drops into the rift valley towards the proposed Naivasha Industrial Park near Suswa after Mai Mahiu, and then crosses B3 at Duka Moja to Enosupukia in Narok County. Its approximate construction cost is about $523 million, and the annual cost of operation will be lower compared to Options, 1 and 2. Implementation of the SGR project through Route Option 4 has factored in compensation to be given to KWS through an endowment fund and CSR activities.

 Technical Standards

 

Items

Standards

1.

Design standard

Chinese Railway Design Standard
(CRDS)

2.

Gauge

1435mm (standard gauge)

3.

Number of main lines

Single track railway

4.

Limiting gradient

12‰

5.

Minimum radius of curve

1200m (800m in difficult sections)

6.

Axle weight

25t

7.

Load specification

Double stacked container

8.

Freight vehicle

DF8B

9.

Maximum speed of freight vehicle

80kM/h

10.

Passenger car

DF11

11.

Maximum speed of passenger car

120kM/h

12.

Type of traction

Diesel traction

13.

Tractive tonnage

4000t

14.

Effective length of arrival-departure
track

880m

Proposed Location of Tunnels

Tunnel name

Entrance mileage

Exit mileage

Total length (m)

No.1 tunnel

DK34+826

DK39+333

4507

No.2 tunnel

DK43+455

DK43+920

465

No.3 tunnel

DK46+390

DK47+500

1110

No.4 tunnel

DK53+610

DK55+362

1752

Total length

   

7834


Distribution List of Bridges and Culverts

Item

Unit

Main Line

Super major bridge

Nr.-linear meter

9-14102.9

Major bridge

Nr.-linear meter

18-4892.6

Medium bridge

Nr.-linear meter

6-549.6

Culvert

Nr.-horizontal linear meter

164-3247.8

Frame bridge

Nr./m2(top)

7-884.8

Highway bridge

Nr./m2(top)

7-2934


Proposed Railway Stations

No.

County

Station
Name

Type of Station

Location (km)

Distance
between the
stations (km)

1.

Nairobi

Nairobi South

District Station

DK00+000

0.0

2.

Kajiado

Tuala

Intermediate Station

DK12=150

12.15

3.

Ongata
Rongai

District Station

DK20+800

20.80

 

4.

Ngong

District Station

DK31+900

31.9

 

5.

Ngong West

Crossing Station

DK41+550

41.55

 

6.

Kiambu

Nanju

District Station

DK51+850

51.85

7.

Kajiado

Ewaso

Crossing Station

DK64+700

64.7

8.

Nakuru

Mai-Mahiu

District Station

DK74+600

74.6

9.

Mai Mahiu
West

Intermediate Station

DK86+500

86.5

 

10.

Narok

Suswa

District Station

DK99+400

99.4

11.

Oloshaiki

Intermediate Station

DK110+500

110.5

 

12.

Enosupukia

Terminating Station

DK120+800

120.8

 

 

SGR Route Suitability Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation criteria

Parameters

1. Route suitability (12
parameters)

P1-Direct connectivity to the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR line
(Engineering design & cost and operational cost)

 

P2-Route turnings (Engineering challenges, high operational
costs)

 

P3-Route distance (Construction and operation cost)

 

P4 – Route elevation to D20 (m)

 

P5-Terrain suitability (Engineering challenging areas)

 

P6-Total bridge length (Construction cost – time & money)

 

P7-Number of key utility crossings – roads, narrow gauge railway, power lines& oil pipelines (Construction cost & level of inconvenience)

 

P8-Obstructions on the right-of-way (High density residential
estates, institutions and establishments) – Displacement,
resettlement cost

 

P9-Operation convenience (Cheap operation)

 

P10-Total construction cost up to Ngong Tunnel

 

P11- Operational cost upto Ngong Tunnel

 

P12-Extra operational cost

 

P13– Route economic return up to Ngong Tunnel

 

P12-Extra operational cost

 

P14 – Proposed SGR distance over the national park

2. Social impacts

P1-Noise & vibration (Potential receptors)

3. Affected ecosystems
outside Nairobi
National Park

P1-SGR river crossings

 

P2-SGR forest crossings

4. Environmental
impacts in Nairobi
National Park

P1-Proposed SGR distance over the national park

 

P2-Encroachment into park environment

 

P3-Loss of valued wildlife habitats in NNP (Ha)

 

P4-Encroachment of wildlife dispersal and migratory routes
outside NNP

 

P5-Park forest crossings

 

P6-Park river crossings

 

P7-Visual impact (Number of park road crossings directly interacting with SGR)

 

P8-Types of affected vegetation

 

P9-Potential area of affected vegetation

 

P10-Key wildlife species and potential habitat impact (ha) in the different routes

 

 

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