A new campaign has been launched to save the Nairobi National Park from being hived off to create a diversion for the Standard Gauge Railway.
The new diversion was adopted recently to save the house of Alan Donovan, which contains pieces of artistic collections and stands on the original railway route adjacent to the park.
The house was built in the early 1990s and Donovan said the Foreign Affairs ministry had assured him the railway plan would be altered.
“The most promising news I have had for eight months,” Donovan told the Los Angeles Times last year.
One proposed alternative was to elevate the railway with large beams constructed inside the park, which is already threatened by other developments.
Conservationists led by WildlifeDirect CEO Dr Paula Kahumbu have now mounted a new campaign asking President President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop any plans to redesign the SGR route.
The new plans would carve out about 215 acres of the park.
Dr Kahumbu said it does not make sense to destroy the park just to save one house that can be easily moved.
“A new route for SGR has been proposed, which will enter Nairobi National Park to avoid damaging Alan Donovan’s house. We discovered Alan had his home registered as a national heritage in December 2014 to prevent the railway from damaging it,” Kahumbu said in a statement to newsrooms.
“We suggest that his house be moved just as other heritage homes have been. Grogan/Manor House was moved from Chiromo to Karen. I believe the President and the ministry will listen to the voices of concerned citizens and friends of Kenya.”
In the petition posted on Awaaz.org, Dr Kahumbu says the house is not a ‘national’ monument but personal property of Donovan, an American.
NNP is the oldest park in East Africa, having been gazetted in 1946, and attracts 100,000 visitors every year, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
It is home to over 40 wild lions, is a globally important rhino sanctuary, has hundreds of giraffe, buffalo and over 1,500 species of birds.
The park has of late suffered assaults, which gathered momentum about five years ago when the Kenya National Highway Authority’s demanded for about 90 acres to build the southern bypass.
Donovan last year launched his campaign to save the mud house, which hosts art collections claimed to span over 50 years of African history.
Experts warn the park, being the only metropolitan park in the world, must be conserved for future generations. All the big five animals, except elephants, can be found in the park.
“The government is now considering re-aligning the route so that the train track will slice across the unique Nairobi National Park cutting off many acres of prime rhino habitat.
“This re-alignment is for the benefit of one person only – to avoid destroying a building, Heritage House, that was declared a national heritage a few months ago.
“Heritage House is not a national heritage, it is a personal property of one Alan Donovan,” says the petition on Awaaz.org.
The house is constructed in the style of a West African home.
“We recognise that Alan Donovan is attached to his beautiful home and properties, however it is our view that his personal assets cannot be compared to or valued as National Heritage comparable to a National Park.”
Donovan had said if the house is not demolished, he has arranged for it to remain open for posterity as an African-studies center in connection with American University in Washington.
The new petition is addressed to the President, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Dr Richard Leakey.
The petitioners want Donovan compensated so that he can dismantle and rebuild his heritage house elsewhere, or fence his property into the park and make it a national museum for public access.