Emotional walk as city residents bid national park 'farewell'
Oct. 06, 2016, 3:00 am
By GILBERT KOECH @koechjunior_1
The next two months may be your last chance to visit the Nairobi National Park, before what is described as its “slow death” begins.
In two weeks time, President Uhuru Kenyatta will launch the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway to Naivasha which, if it passes through the park, will change it forever.
Established in 1946, Nairobi National Park’s acreage has remained intact with the animals confined in 117.21 square kilometres ( 28,963 acres). Until now.
Conservationists calculate that the SGR will be the killer punch in a series of hard blows the park has received of late.
Currently a short drive out of Nairobi’s central business district ushers wide open grass plains and backdrop of the city scrapers and scattered acacia bush playing host to a wide variety of wildlife.
The sight provides wonderful memories for ordinary visitors during their maiden visits to the Nairobi National Park.
But for conservationists,the park is quickly becoming a shell due to encroachment.
Established in 1946 as a seasonal park, Nairobi National Park’s acreage has remained intact with the animals confined in 117.21 square kilometres (28,963 acres).
The park is a home to the King of the Jungle and the Cheetah, the Leopard and the Zebra, the Buffalo and the Giraffe, the Black Rhino and the Warthog, the Hyena and the cheeky Monkey, the mischievous Apes and the playful Baboons, as well as many other wondrous species.
Even though visitors may enjoy the park’s picnic sites, three campsites and the walking trails for hikers,the Nairobi National park has become a shell of its past.
Gleaming tall buildings surrounds the park and in the distance is a cloud of smoky plumes of large industries colouring the air.
Just on the other side of the park’s electrified fence line looms a row of new apartment buildings with waste finding their way into it threatening flora and fauna.
The threats are so imminent that it has attracted the attention of corporates as well as conservationists willing to reverse the trend.
On September 24,Kenyans of all walks of life participated in a walk aimed at protecting the Nairobi National Park in what could be the last event after government settled to have SGR line cut it to two.
Already,plans have been made to have the second Phase of SGR slice through the park,something conservationists are vehemently opposed to.
The Nairobi Greenline during the walk collaborated with partners including Kenya Wildlife Service in A walk in the park.
The walk was aimed at raising awareness of the need to protect the park from human and commercial invasion,as well as give the public an opportunity to appreciate its beauty.
Nairobi GreenLine was launched on 18th February 2010. The project was an initiative of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service and other corporate organisations.
The project is a 30km long and 50m wide forest of indigenous trees that will shield the Nairobi National Park from our growing metropolis. Any land grabbers or polluters who will dare to cross the Line will face the full force of a new law. Besides, they’ll have to contend with the whistle-blowing wrath of conservationists, nature lovers and the will of the Kenyan people.
Between April 2010 and April 2013, parallel electric fences were constructed to demarcate the Greenline - from Athi River’s Cheetah Gate to just beyond the Carnivore.
During these months, the Greenline Nursery collected and nurtured 250,000 indigenous seedlings for planting.
The planting took place from December 2010, and is still on-going.
Greenline trust chairman Gayling May said the park is now facing constant encroachment more than ever before and if there is no immediate action taken,Kenya could soon loose the only park within the capital city in the world.
"We are planting natural trees around the boundary in a big and demanding exercise,"he said adding that the park must be preserved for the coming generation.
Like most of Kenya’s parks, the Nairobi preserve is under pressure from the country’s growing population and the accompanying need for settlement land on the southern side.
In 1948, the first year Nairobi’s population was counted and the count found out that 118,976 people lived in the capital; today, that number has soared to 3 million.
Kenya’s 42 million citizens are expected to balloon to greater numbers in the coming years.
May said the park is a concrete jungle of the city and as such,it should not be allowed to be encroached.
"Greenery is what we forget,we need to plant more trees if we are to conserve this fragile ecosystem from extinction,"he added.
Greenline co-ordinator Wanja Kimani said the trust collects the seeds from the park before they propagate them in tree nurseries.
Kimani said care is taken when transferring seedlings from the nurseries to the area where they are planted to ensure that no invasive plants are allowed into the park.
"We also collect polythene bags that found their way into the park as they can kill grazers because they interfere with their digestion,"she said adding that SGR will introduce invasive species in the park if not stopped.
Kimani said for SGR bridge to be complete,it will take two years,a move that will completely chase wildlife from the park.
"With huge traffic finding their way into the park will completely chase wildlife away from the park,"she said adding that this is likely to increase human wildlife conflict.
APA insurance,Heritage insurance,AAR,KENGEN foundation,copy cat,Rhino cement and Fair mount Nor fork sustainability team are among the companies that took part in the drive.
During the walk,AAR provided free medical check up as well as a three month free voucher for consultation with a doctor as well as two ambulances.
For Ann Murage who works for Flame tree,wild animals in their ecosystems must be protected as they have given the country the pride as tourist destination.
Flame tree manufactures water tanks,moulders among other products.
Murage said the standard gauge railway needs to be rerouted as the impact that will have on the wildlife will be huge.
"It does not make any sense for huge project such as SGR to cut into two the only park in the world that is near the city,"she said urging the government to rethink the move.
Murage said wild animals such as lions do not want noise as it had been witnessed during the construction of the Southern bypass.
This was after ministry of transport and the Kenya Wildlife Service last year struck a deal to hive off about 53 acres of land from the Nairobi National Park to give room for completion of the Nairobi Southern Bypass.
Benson Anyango,an employee with the battery manufacturer chloride exide said by planting trees around the industries,it will help to clean the air we breath.
Trees and other plants make their own food from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, water, sunlight and a small amount of soil elements. In the process, they release oxygen for us to breathe.
Trees also help to settle out, trap and hold particulate pollutants (dust, ash, pollen and smoke) that can damage human lungs.
Anyango said the SGR project will do more harm than good to the wildlife in the park.
During the walk,keen environmentalists are encouraged to learn the 17 species of indigenous trees that have been planted in the Nairobi Greenline Forest.
These species are Acacia Kirkii, Acacia Mellifera, Acacia Polyacantha, Acacia Xanthophloea, Acacia Nilotica, Acacia Elatior, Acacia Seyal, Balanites, Carissa Spinarm, Cordia Africana and Croton Megalocarpus.
Others are Erytherina Abyssinica, Felipendium Decipens, Grevillea Robusta, Markhamia Lutea, Prunus Africanum, Warbugia Ugadensis
In the course of 2017, other locations will be identified for additional Greenlines to be drawn throughout Kenya (in other parks and protected zones). Another 750,000 seedlings will be grown in readiness.