Friday, 29 August 2008 04:43

Mau forest destruction is a threat to the East African Regional integration

Written by Duncan Mboyah
The East African Sustainable Watch Network civil society has asked the Kenyan government to firmly evict settlers and those still encroaching in the Mau forest once and for good to help save the region from the adverse climatic condition that is already being experienced.

The civil society observes that the unwise excisions and unplanned political settlement that was approved by the government in 2001 in disregard of objection that were raised by a large number of organizations, national and international has now caused degradation of critical catchments areas.

“In particular, we are concerned about the dwindling Lake Victoria water flow that is fast negatively affecting livelihoods of people who depend on farming, tourism and electricity for their daily needs,” the civil society notes.

The civil society further blamed low tourism attraction in Tanzania and low level of water that is non supportive for power generation in Kenya and Uganda on the upstream encroachment.

River Mara starts its journey to Lake Victoria from Mau and already its water level is low hence forcing the hippopotamus that frequents it to migrate down to Lake Victoria,” says the statement that was signed at a Kisumu hotel by the regional facilitator Mr. Richard Kimbowa amongst other officials from the three countries.

They lauded the recent move by the government but warned that it should not be used as a public relations exercise that is aimed at diverting people’s attention from the political developments in the country.

“Whereas Kenya earns a lot of money from tourism, it is unwise for the country to continue denying Tanzania its share of tourism earning from Serengeti National Park,” says the statement that was signed at a Kisumu hotel by the regional facilitator Mr. Richard Kimbowa amongst other officials from the three countries.

Meeting under the auspices of the East African Civil Society Watchdog Project for Sustainable Development in the Lake Victoria basin, the organizations also told East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to enact appropriate and binding legislative framework to deter an individual country from future unplanned decisions that have detrimental environmental damage on the other member states.

The organizations observes that, given that the lake Victoria basin is already experiencing socio-economic and ecological stress, the effects of environmental degradation are likely to complicate matters.

 “At the moment climate change directly challenges the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as national poverty eradication and sustainable development objectives in several developing countries including the East African countries,” they notes.

 The effects of climate change are expected to compound existing poverty situation due to the limited capacity of developing countries to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

 At the moment climate change is being viewed as a major concern with respect to food security, water resources, natural resources productivity, biodiversity, human health, desertification and coastal zones.

 The organizations points out that their claim in 2001 that the excisions would be detrimental to the environment in many respects, particularly with regard to the nations water household, electricity supply, the effects of agriculture downstream, timber production, biodiversity, tourism and also climate change has now come true.

 “It is estimated that over 5 million people in western Kenya and 10 million people in Uganda and Tanzania are directly affected currently by the effects of the Mau excisions and settlements,” the organizations says.

 The destruction at the catchments are critical to key economic sectors including power generation, tea sector and tourism and wildlife.

 As a result of the governments degazzettment of 2001, 67,000 hectares of forest reserve land, mainly in the Mau complex were allocated to individuals some of whom still  live on the forest and continue to cut trees .

 Also affected is the Sondu Miriu hydro power plant in western Kenya that is complete but unable to function due to low level of water that cannot turn the turbines to generate electricity.

“There are no large track of forest in the excised area that can be recovered. However there are some isolated valuable forest plantations along the boundary between the excision and settlements,” says Mr. Michael Gachanja of the Kenya Forest Network.

 He says that some 2,300 households were recorded encroaching illegally up to 10 kilometers inside the remaining gazetted forest reserve in 2005.

 The organizations blames corruption, a wavering political will to address the problems and abuse of office as a key contributor to forest loss in the country. Kenya currently has less than 10% of forest cover contrary to the recommended 10% by the international standards

 They however calls for the urgent remedial actions for catchments conservation and proper land use in the region.

 

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