(Hello Africa) A Chinese-built railway in harmony with wildlife conservation in East Africa

A passenger train runs over the Super Major Bridge of the Tsavo River near Kenya’s Tsavo National Park on July 28, 2022. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)

Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a Chinese-built project, has put in place interventions to ensure the railway is in harmony with wildlife.

NAIROBI, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has implemented interventions to ensure the railway is in harmony with wildlife.

The 480 km Mombasa-Nairobi section passes through the country’s largest wildlife sanctuary, Tsavo National Park, while the 120 km Nairobi-Suswa section passes through Nairobi National Park and had minimal effects on wildlife.

Afristar, the operator of the Chinese-built RMS, has implemented a number of noise mitigation measures on the railway aimed at reducing interference in wildlife habitats.

Obed Kirwa, track technical supervisor at Afristar’s Nairobi-Maai Mahiu workshop, told Xinhua in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that they have installed noise barriers along wildlife corridors to reduce disruption to wildlife. animals. “We have erected sound absorption plates on the track in areas close to wildlife habitats,” he added.

Several buffaloes cross the wildlife crossings of Nairobi National Park’s Super Major Bridge equipped with noise deflectors in Nairobi, Kenya, May 19, 2021. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)

The SGR has also constructed a large bridge at a height of 6.5 meters above the ground where the railway crosses Nairobi National Park to facilitate the passage of large animals such as elephants and giraffes. In addition, a 5.9 km long and two meter high noise barrier is installed on either side of the bridge guardrail to minimize the noise caused by trains as they pass through the bridges. wildlife areas.

Kirwa, who has worked on the railway since 2017, said the sound barriers have significantly reduced the amount of noise emitted by moving SGR locomotives. “So at this stage, no animals have been affected by the noise. We have observed that when passenger and freight trains pass through the park, wildlife roam freely, and some even relax under the bridge to s ‘shelter from the sun,’ he added, noting that the SGR project is keen to protect Kenya’s wildlife because of its importance to the national economy.

“My wish is that those who come after us continue with the same spirit and maintain sound barriers as they reduce stress on wildlife,” Kirwa said. Kirwa’s 16-person maintenance team physically inspects the sound absorption plates at least once a month to ensure they have not been affected by wear or have been vandalized.

The SGR, inaugurated in 2017, connects the coastal port of Mombasa to Nairobi and terminates at Suswa. It is the largest infrastructure construction project in Kenya since independence and a landmark project enabling the East African nation to achieve its Vision 2030 national development plan, as well as a model project for China-Africa cooperation.

Zhang Zhengyi, Afristar Nairobi’s deputy manager at the track and signal maintenance workshop, said at least 14 major wildlife crossings, 79 bridges and 100 culverts have been installed along the railway line to ensure the free passage of animals.

“We railway builders have seriously thought about the problem of the harmonious coexistence of the railway project and the natural environment. In the design of the railway, we have adopted a series of animal protection measures, drawing inspiration from design experience from the A50 road in the Netherlands, the B38 road in Germany and the Qinghai-Tibet railway in China,” Zhang said.

In order to accommodate the lifestyles of Kenya’s iconic wildlife such as elephants, giraffes and other large animals, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway has set up several animal crossings along the way. iron and increased the height of the bridges in order to facilitate the passage of animals.

Zhang observed that during the design phase of the SGR, all train collisions with elephants that occurred between 2007 and 2012 on the old meter gauge railway line were analyzed; based on this, appropriate crossing points for elephants have been established.

A zebra is seen next to a fence as a freight train runs on the Mombasa-Nairobi railway line in Kenya, July 28, 2022. (Xinhua/Dong Jianghui)

He noted that identifying the locations of wildlife crossings takes into account the migration routes of species, as well as the distribution of surrounding rivers and ditches. He revealed that as part of efforts to improve animal welfare, the location and number of animal crossings installed on the RMS was finally determined after several demonstrations and analyzes with the state-owned Kenya Wildlife Service. (KWS).

Zhang still remembers the first time he saw rhinos along the railway line in Nairobi National Park. “I was on duty that day, (doing) a routine inspection. I was extremely excited. The baby rhino was so cute, and the rhino family was relaxing by the bridge. And now I’m getting used to to see these precious animals. I am proud that the SGR maintains a good example of modern, environmentally friendly construction,” he revealed.

Kenya is one of the most biodiverse countries and attracts tourists from all over the world. According to Afristar, SGR is more environmentally friendly because it produces less carbon dioxide per ton of goods than road transport. Thus, the SGR has been hailed by environmental experts for its role in the fight against climate change.

Nancy Githaiga, Country Director of the Africa Wildlife Foundation, a leading international conservation organization, said measures have been implemented to make a difference in the balance between SGR and wildlife.

“I think during the construction of the RMS there was a lot of talk about the RMS going through the wildlife corridor areas, and what we saw was that the bridges and the underpasses helped the movement of the A little more probably would have been better, but what is currently available I think has helped and reduced the number of deaths that we expected,” Githaiga said.

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