13-09-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo
For once, Nature wins over infrastructure.
The three government departments that oversee environmental protection, Nema, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Service, refused to give the green light to the Kenya National Highways Authority to implement a road widening and asphalting project through the fragile Aberdare forest ecosystem.
The proposed road project, according to environmentalists, would have put the natural heritage in the Aberdare ecosystem at exponential risk.
The project to realign the Ihithe-Aberdare Forest-Kahuruko-Ndunyu Njeru road would traverse 25 kilometres of very dense forest, and is part of the entire stretch between Nyeri and Nyandarua counties that will be joined by a 54-kilometre-long link for which 4.4. billion shillings had already been allocated.
As announced by The Star newspaper, the government stopped everything after the National Environment Autohority did not approve the environmental impact assessment by the company that prepared the project. The two government agencies KWS and KFS, which have the area where the new road is to pass under protection, have also vehemently opposed the project. Among the issues raised was the fact that during construction, some endangered tree species would be cut down, and that the road would create no other solution than for highly polluting vehicles to drive on it.
"We would like to inform that the authority is of the opinion that the proposed project will not improve sustainable development and sound environmental management. We recommend that plans be redesigned or an alternative site be explored,' reads the rejection letter from NEMA.
Conservation NGOs Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, Africa Wildlife Foundation and East Africa Wildlife Society in turn criticised the project citing 'possible serious environmental impacts on the Aberdare ecosystem'. The importance of the Aberdare Forest Reserve and its Aberdare National Park is not purely aesthetic and touristic. In fact, the forest's microclimate and its springs constitute one of Kenya's five great water reserves, and not only feeds Lake Naivasha and all the large arable areas around it, but through its aquifers it reaches as far as Nairobi.
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