Economy

Nema orders tree planting along city expressway route

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President Uhuru Kenyatta when he flagged off road construction works of the JKIA-Westlands expressway in Nairobi last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Move is seen as a bid to pacify activists who threaten to delay project with suits.

The Chinese contractor hired to build Kenya’s first double-decker expressway will plant trees at all affected public places, including Nairobi National Park, Uhuru Park and Arboretum, the State has announced, ostensibly to appease conservationists.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has been contracted to build the 27-kilometre highway linking Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Westlands at a cost of Sh59 billion.

Under the new conditions published on Friday by the national environment regulator for public review, CRBC will be required to plant trees covering double the area of public spaces affected.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) also wants CRBC to clean the sections of Nairobi and Ngong Rivers crossed by the expressway

According to Nema, the measures will open green spaces to compensate for permanent loss of vegetation and destruction of bird habitats at the Nyayo Stadium and Westlands roundabouts.

“The proponent will collaborate with private parties and State agencies to offset the loss of vegetation by planting trees in areas such as Nairobi National Park, Uhuru Park, City Park and Arboretum, public schools and other land along the corridor,” Nema said last week.

Environmental conservationists had vowed to challenge in court the expressway design that effectively cuts a section of Uhuru Park and wildlife conservation spaces in the capital.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in October last year launched construction of the double-decker road that will ultimately link the JKIA to Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

Under the Nema conditions, the CRBC will set up a liaison desk for dispute resolution from affected residents and businesses in what is aimed averting similar disputes that derailed phase-two of the standard gauge railway (SGR) that was completed in 2018.

The firm will also leave the cut trees on site for several days to provide temporary habitats for the marabou storks and other birds living in the areas and allow time for the birds to escape.

Upon completion, CRBC will recoup its money by charging toll to motorists using the express way to escape the heavy traffic jams along Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki Way.

Motorists who will opt for the lower section of the double-decker highway will be spared the toll charges on the road.