Conservationists oppose Sh4.4 billion Mau Mau road

Mau Mau Road

An aerial view of Gituiga-Huhoini Road which forms part of the Mau Mau Road in Nyeri county. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Conservationists have slammed plans to resume construction of the Sh4.4 billion Mau Mau road between Nyeri and Nyandarua counties, saying it will have "significant long-term environmental impacts".

Construction of the 54-kilometre Ihithe-Aberdare Forest-Kahuruko-Ndunyu Njeru road was halted last year, but an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report released last month gave the project a clean bill of health.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) suspended the tender for the construction of the road last year after the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and Nema failed to approve the project.

The controversial road project will traverse 25 kilometres of closed canopy forest in Aberdare.

The ESIA report states that "the majority of the identified adverse impacts are short-term in nature, of low significance and will cease upon completion of the construction phase".

"Based on the findings of this assessment, the study team finds no reason why the project should not be approved, subject to mitigation and monitoring of potential environmental and socio-economic impacts..." the ESIA report states.

 In February, Environment CS Soipan Tuya said the ministry would consider approving the project because roads are critical to development.

But the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, a conservation organisation, says the project will lead to the destruction of many indigenous trees in the forest reserve, cause collisions with wildlife, affect the conservation of the critically endangered mountain bongo and destroy the habitat of Kenya's largest elephant population.

Aberdare National Park and its moorlands are home to a large population of elephants, a globally threatened species. The largest group of mountain bongo, comprising 40-50 individuals, lives in the very area where the road will be upgraded... the gate through which the road will enter the park is called Kiandongoro, which means bongo in Kikuyu,' the charity argues in its protest report.

According to the National Spatial Plan 2015-2045, no development is allowed in water towers, wetlands and natural forests, except for research and ecotourism.

While proponents of the project argue that it will reduce the distance between Nyeri town and Ndunyu Njeru by 150 kilometres, the NGO argues that the road will be too steep to reduce travel time to markets.