President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday ignored the raging controversy over the standard gauge railway route through the Nairobi National Park and commissioned the second phase of the project.
The Nairobi-Naivasha section is expected to be the most challenging yet for the Chinese contractor in Kenya as the terrain to be covered is quite mountainous and attached to divergent political and environmental sentiments.
The works will begin with the drilling of a five-kilometre tunnel under Ngong Hills beginning at Em-bulbul, near Ngong Town.
Addressing Kajiado residents just a few kilometres from the Nairobi National Park, he said the world-famous wildlife sanctuary would not be affected and those criticising the project were being malicious.
“Hiyo ni upuzi (That is nonsense),” said President Kenyatta. “We have taken measures to ensure that the park is not affected and those going to the courts should stop preventing Kenya from moving forward.”
Less than a year to the General Election, the SGR is the biggest project yet under Jubilee watch and is expected to significantly boost the local and regional economy.
The Nairobi-Naivasha phase will cost Sh150 billion, which is less than half the cost of the Mombasa-Nairobi one.
Though only 120 kilometres long, it is also expected to take longer to build, with the estimated completion period set at four years and five months. Most of that time will be spent on the tunnel northwest of Ngong Hills and the uneven Rift Valley landscape.
The railway will descend into the Rift Valley through the tunnel and proceed northwest to the proposed Industrial Parks at Maai Mahiu and Suswa and on to Duka Moja and Narok.
[Image credit: Photo of a white-browed sparrow-weaver nest at Nairobi Hill, Nairobi Area, Kenya by 陈霆 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]