Kenya Says Railway Through Wildlife Park Is Least-Worst Route

Routing a new Kenyan railway line through the capital’s national wildlife reserve is the least-worst option for a congested city and compromises in its design will leave animals enough space to roam, a government official said.

The government said earlier this month that its new $3.2 billion Standard Gauge Railway linking East Africa’s biggest port at Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, would be routed through Nairobi National Park. The decision sparked protests by conservationists, who say it will threaten wildlife in the world’s only reserve situated in a capital city.

“There’s always controversy in every country in terms of maintaining development and balancing the needs of communities,” Environment Secretary Judi Wakhungu said in an interview Wednesday in Johannesburg, South Africa. “No matter what you do, government can’t get the perfect solution.”

Authorities in Kenya, the region’s largest economy, have vowed to hold public hearings as part of an assessment of the project’s environmental impact. The line, which when complete will run from Mombasa to the Ugandan border, is Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since it gained independence from Britain in 1963.

Wakhungu described other, rejected, proposals for the line to traverse congested areas and communities.

“It’s very painful for me as the minister in charge of protecting the landscape, of course,” she said of the park plan. “We try to have a compromise and we are allowing space for the wildlife. We’re including overpasses and underpasses for the wildlife to move through.”

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