World Insights: Modern Chinese-built railway in Kenya hailed for its green philosophy


When construction of the 480km Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) began in 2014, Ali Mohamed was impressed by the Chinese contractor’s thoughtfulness in protecting local habitats from harm.

The 44-year-old resident of a serene village overlooking a mangrove on the northwestern edges of the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya is proud of the modern railway project for the high importance it attaches to the conservation of life Marine.

The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR – which connects Mombasa, East Africa’s largest port, and Nairobi, Kenya’s capital – is Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since its independence in 1963.


Mohamed, also the founder of Bidii Creek Conservancy, a Mombasa-based green lobby, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the SGR has provided best practices for combining conservation with infrastructure development.

“I visited the SGR when its construction started and witnessed the restoration of previously degraded sections of the mangrove forest in our locality,” Mohamed said.

“The installation of overpasses and culverts has kept the mangrove forest, which is an important fish breeding site, minimally disturbed, in addition to regulating the coastal climate,” he added.

Adjacent to the ancestral village of Mohamed, tall concrete pillars support a winding viaduct through pristine beaches and mangroves to allow smooth movement of SGR passengers and freight trains.

Mohamed and his conservation peers hailed the efforts of Mombasa-Nairobi SGR contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation to ensure that the ecological integrity of marine ecosystems, including mangrove forests and estuaries, is not compromised. affected by the infrastructure project.

Five years after its launch, the SGR has been hailed by local authorities and conservationists for prioritizing ecological protection along its corridor.

Philip Jamuhuri Mainga, Managing Director of Kenya Railways Corporation, said green ethics have been placed at the center of SGR’s operations, bringing benefits to local communities in terms of clean air and tranquil landscapes.

“We have obtained very good results in terms of preserving the environment. The SGR corridor has reduced carbon emissions, the trains are well maintained and produce no waste,” Mainga said.

Unlike trucks, SGR trains traveling along the corridor do not emit smoke into the atmosphere, boosting Kenya’s quest for better air quality, said Cosmas Makewa, Station Master at SGR Mombasa Terminus .

According to Makewa, the design and execution of the modern railway project complied with local environmental protection laws, ensuring a healthy relationship between the contractor and local communities.

“The project has had a positive impact on the environment. It did not cross the sea or interfere with the mangroves. We built temporary culverts to make sure the water flowed from the sea to the other side,” Makewa said.

He added that the SGR bridges cause minimal ground disturbance even as the contractor strengthens its partnership with coastal communities to restore depleted sections of mangrove forest.


In the idyllic plains that dot Tsavo National Park, Kenya’s oldest and largest wildlife sanctuary, iconic species such as elephants, giraffes and zebras are still spotted passing through the underground passageways installed by the SGR contractor, to ensure they can migrate seamlessly.

The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR winds through Tsavo National Park, a world famous tourist destination.

To improve wildlife safety, contractor SGR erected electric fences on both sides of the track in addition to installing wide underpasses at short intervals to facilitate the movement of large and small animals.

Nancy Githaiga, country director for Kenya at the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, said the construction of bridges and underpasses helps protect iconic wildlife in Tsavo National Park.

Initial fears that the RMS could harm biodiversity, including wildlife, were allayed with the construction of safe passages by the contractor, Githaiga said.

The wildlife protection measures initiated by the contractor SGR should inform future efforts to develop mega infrastructure projects while preserving the integrity of Kenya’s biodiversity hotspots, she added.


In the view of Leopold Omondi, an activist with the Nairobi-based green lobby Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR project has underscored the viability of China’s vision of ecological civilization.

“The SGR contractors have somehow tried to prevent environmental damage by laying the rail from Mombasa to Nairobi. Wildlife habitats and the animals themselves have been taken care of,” Omondi said.

By learning from China’s ecological civilization model, Kenya has a better chance of achieving nature-positive growth, he added.

Isaiah Andebe, program coordinator of the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change, said the commendable protection of mangroves and wildlife is a testament to the successes of the ecological protection plan adopted by the entrepreneur.

He commended contractor SGR for providing wildlife migration corridors in Tsavo and Nairobi National Parks and for encouraging rainwater harvesting to meet animal needs.

“The SGR has adopted greening measures as grass and trees have been planted at various stretches along the railway track. This not only contributes to beautification but also to environmental protection,” Andebe said. ■


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