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An urban planner's take on the multi-billion dollar standard gauge railway project

The Country is currently engaged in deliberations for undertaking a huge construction project that will have far-reaching impact on many aspects of the social, spatial, economic, environmental, and political consequences both now and in future. As we read about cost issues as well as the operational and political repercussions of the same, and what this project has to do to serve the economy, Planners have to ask and confront some fundamental questions:

1.      Benefit to the economyhas to be better than the current transport situation (lower costs, and efficient), but also demonstrable ability to open up unexploited areas of development potential. If this cannot be demonstrated then it is not worth it.

2.      Land use and environmental considerations:where it will pass and integration with the rest of the land use in a proper functional manner (Towns, rural areas, wildlife areas, etc). The preservation of strategic environmental and cultural assets, fragile ecosystems, and environmental aesthetics….workable mitigation of foreseen potential environmental impacts. Application of cleaner technologies devoid of pollution, noise and vibrations, especially to captive communities, be it humans or wildlife.

3.      What implications does the rapidity, especially in flow of people and commodities mean for the Kenyan landscape….such a railway is not a line in the literal; it is a dynamically textured corridor that we have to anticipate and prepare for!

4.      Demonstrable best practices of constructing standard gauge railway and operation of the same.

5.      At this point in time do we need a single standard gauge railway line or a double one so as we can solve transport problems for the next 30-50 years?

6.      Affordability and Cost-recovery – is the arithmetic morally acceptable or we are committing our economy and generations to come to endless and enslaving debt burden? Going into debt is not a crime, but is that credit within our means – all channels factored in?

As planners these are some of the issues we have put on the table for radical and critical professional and academic intercourse.

Planners

Dadu Karisa & Osengo Charles

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