By Leopold Obi, The Daily Nation
Conservationists have opposed plans by the Kenya Wildlife Service to put up new hotel building in the Nairobi National Park.
The activists also want the conservation agency to postpone the plan until after the Covid-19 pandemic is dealt with to allow proper civic engagement.
In its new 10-year management plan for the Nairobi National Park, the KWS intends to construct an eco-lodge, a high-end restaurant and an amphitheatre, which could threaten the park.
The institution also plans to fence the park citing numerous cases of human-wildlife conflicts and increasing amounts of unpaid bills for human-wildlife compensations.
Nairobi National Park is the East Africa’s oldest national park having been established more than 70 years ago. It is also the only park in the world located within a capital city.
Environmental activist Dr Paula Kahumbu says that Kenyans are both appreciative of nature are equally concerned about open green spaces, authentic wild nature, wildlife, birds and access to this places. “KWS manages the parks on behalf of Kenyans. What the public want should therefore be their foremost concern. As a public space that occupies 15 per cent of the capital city, importance of the Nairobi National Park is a symbol of who we are,” Dr Kahumbu said.
Reinhard Bonke, a wildlife and environmental campaigner at Friends of Nairobi National Park, accuses KWS of excluding the views of stakeholders and local community from the draft document.
“There should be honesty in stakeholder engagement and not just for ticking the boxes. The current draft omits stakeholders’ input,” he said adding that the April 19 notice is also too short.
He also pointed out that the management plan goes against the National Wildlife Strategy whose key goals were to maintain and improve habitat and ecosystem integrity and to protect, rehabilitate and restore wildlife habitats and their connectivity.
Mr Bonke said that the park with its current size cannot withstand the kind of development proposed by KWS.
The park has over the years faced numerous threats from human development activities ranging from the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) to the construction of 4.153-kilometre road that connects Nairobi Inland Container Depot to the Southern bypass near Wilson Airport cuts through the park.
Kenyans are concerned that the development will eat way chunks of the park leading to extinction of wildlife, especially the large carnivores such as rhinos, lions, giraffes and elephants.
Scientists says that larger animals need bigger ranges to survive, therefore they will likely die when their habitat shrinks or fragments.
“We need an all-inclusive sustainable and integrated approach towards wildlife conservation and attaining general environmental conservation in the country. The key priority should be on an intensive focus on managing the natural park conditions to attract and keep more wildlife in the park, control invasive species, to keep wildlife inside,” Mr Bonke noted.
Edwin Kiraki, a conservation enthusiast, not that construction of the structures inside the park will reduce the city’s green spaces leading to rising cases of air pollution.
“Building a multimillion shilling hotel in Nairobi National Park will destroy wildlife ecological spaces. It will reduce wildlife habitats thus threatening wildlife green spaces. Green spaces should be respected,” he said.