This is the second part to the serialization of the overpriced and completely unnecessary Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) Project.
As the government is reeling under the weight of the debt payment for the loss making SGR, according to the contract, the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Study which was done by a Kenyan firm Africa Waste and Environment Management Centre (AWEMAC), only 217 people were interviewed as Key Informant for the public participation.
These people decided that the SGR was better than the old line Metre Gauge Railway. By any standard that is a very low figure. Though some other table shows the total number of the participants for the total period of the study to be 958, the study seem rushed and there was no level of agitation that could have stopped the Kenyan and Chinese govt officials from pocketing kickbacks once the project rolls out. Less than 1000 people decided that the environment was not an issue to them. Destroy it for a few coins, soda and Chapati that they were bribed with at the venue of those public participation.
Hidden contract and loan revealed
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the contractor, in a bid to hide crucial information from the public made the Kenyan government sign confidentiality clauses in the controversial contract making it “sensitive and private”.
By the end of this year, Kenya is expected to have repaid at least Sh50 billion of the exorbitant Chinese loan.
As you by now know so well, Kenya in May 2014 entered into a deal to borrow $3.233 billion (Sh324.01 billion) from China’s Exim Bank, comprising $1.633 billion commercial loan and $1.6 billion concessional to build the 385km modern railway between Mombasa and Nairobi.
The loan, whose interest is 3.6 percentage points above the six month average of London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (Libor) which serves as an international benchmark, is to be repaid in 15 years with a grace period of five years.
The current one year Libor rate as of December 20, 2019 is two percent, a pointer that the loan comes with an interest rate of 5.6 percent.
This is expensive compared to other concessional loans, especially from the World Bank. Kenya recently agreed a Sh75 billion loan with the World Bank whose interest and other charges stand at two percent annually—matching the Libor rate.
Treasury data tabled in the National Assembly show that loan payments to Exim Bank of China will increase to Sh84.3 billion for the 2020/2021 and Sh111.4 billion in the 2021-22 financial years.
SGR accounts for the largest share of Exim Bank of China loans to Kenya including the Sh150 billion used to build the Nairobi-Naivasha line.
Despite hiding the contract, our team has got hold of this and we will proceed with the serialization of the whole document for Kenyans to know what happened. The government has for a long time refused to make public all the information regarding the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contracts.
Kenyans have raised an issue on why over Sh1.5 billion shillings is used per month to run and maintain SGR.
Going back to the environmental and social impact study conducted by AWEMAC, there are some points that caught my eye. I will subsequently list them, however, before that, don’t forget that the larger scheme of things for the proponents of the SGR was to loot public funds.
Pollution on vegetation
The study correctly notes that the train will produce exhaust gases which will settle on the vegetation and interfere with the photosynthesis. However, the solution is just to state that “the project will put up measure to ensure that there is a reduction in emission of exhaust gases and smoke”. Kwa ground vitu ni different.
What measures were put in place? None
Morocco easily built their new rail network, fully electrified (25kV 50Hz ac electrification), high speed (320km/h) at a cost of $1.5 Billion, compared to Kenya’s dirty diesel locomotive at over $4.8 Billion. It was a rip-off.
Wildlife and livestock accidents due to damaged fence
Of course, noting that many wildlife is killed along the old MGR railway, the SGR decided to put a fence or overpass in areas that were full of wildlife crossing. They mitigated knowing that larger big 5 animals might also damage the fence and pass. The problem is that at the beginning of the journeys by SGR, there were many animals that were reportedly knocked dead, going by the pictures that were shared online. The animals are still being killed by the trains but there is a strong directive against taking pictures.
Loss of employment opportunities
It is a celebration of loss of jobs for truck drivers and bus firms as the writer of this part of the ESIA report states, ‘most travelers that use road transport will also find it faster, convenient and safe to travel by train” and that ‘bus companies that operate between Nairobi and Mombasa will have to improve their services in order to compete with high-quality train services offered”, , it also takes a swipe at truckers saying that the over 50,000 drivers and turn boys might be adversely affected and as such ‘they may have to shift their business interests to the new railway in order to survive’.
As of 2012, the population of towns along the 33 station proposed railway line was slightly over 2 million, as per the Kenya National Population and Housing Census, 2009.
As for the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) that was a sham (article for another day).
A section of the SGR line has been affected by the ongoing rains. Some underpasses flooded resulting in damage to the embankment
— Kenya Railways (@KenyaRailways_) November 20, 2016
In item 7.1.8 titled Slope Failure, the ESIA report states that the mitigative measured for sections likely to experience slope failure was to incorporate rehabilitation of the slope measures such as grass planting (remember the Sh1 billion grass), tree planting, and building of concrete embankments.
Not just for the sake of criticism, but a year before the rails started operations, some section of the embankment were washed away by rains in November 2016. For such an expensive venture, the engineers could not have designed that section as proposed by JD Rail Smart systems to deal with the section being washed away.
— WASWAH ™ (@realWaswah) November 20, 2016
JD Rail SMart System
“The SGR is ahead of its time.”, James Macharia
The SGR was built like we live in a desert country.
As the effects of climate change increase, this is what awaits it when when the El Nino flood hits parts of Western Kenya & North Coast.
Mark this tweet, we shall revisit it. pic.twitter.com/3nobmTqb8N
— Michael Mburu (@MichaelMburu_) April 19, 2019
Lastly but not the least as there are many things to say about the negative effects of SGR, the item numbered 7.1.13, titled Modification of Forest and Woodland Infrastructure Designs, the SGR planner propose to adhere to the Forest Act 2005 which highlights the integration of the community to the management, utilization, and conservation of forests and its resources:, it ends by stating ‘Wanton destruction of forests should be avoided or minimized”.
The SGR did not adhere to the 7.1.13 clause by any measure (article for another day).
Just other parts, you can make do your research and see how much was spent on these items