NAIROBI-A construction boom risks destroying a game park on the Kenyan capital’s edge, where lions hunt in the shadows of skyscrapers, a wildlife official said.
Nairobi has a population of about three million people but that is expected to surge to eight million within two decades, fuelling demand for housing and commercial property.
Analysts say sky-high land prices in the capital are forcing Kenya’s middleclass to seek affordable plots on the outskirts.
Julius Kipng’etich, the managing director of the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), says human settlement expansion and growth in industries pose a threat to Kenya’s oldest national park next to the city.
Tourism is Kenya’s number two foreign exchange earner after tea, while construction was the fastest growing sector in east Africa’s biggest economy in 2010. The economy is projected to grow by 5.7% this year, from 5.2% in 2010.
“The upswing of the economy brings its own challenges, such as human settlements encroaching on protected areas. So the encroachment of the park comes from high class settlements and the slums that follow them,” Kipng’etich said.
Hundreds of acres around the park are mainly owned by nomadic Maasai, who sub-divide and sell land to outsiders eager to build, he said, as a family of warthogs roamed outside the KWS headquarters. The occasional spine-chilling roar from the park’s lions could be heard.
Established in 1946, the Nairobi National Park provides a chance for visitors to experience a safari game drive and view Kenya’s famed wildlife between meetings, Kipng’etich said.