News 2008


Mau forest stands for life, our future


21. 07. 2008

THE 400,000-HECTARE MAU FOREST COMPLEX remains by far the most important water tower in the region. The source of at least 12 rivers, the complex is the bedrock of economic activity in Western Kenya and the Lake Victoria region in general.

The continued degradation of this great ecosystem, through such activities as illegal logging, excisions and encroachments, will have far-reaching environmental and economic implications. It is now estimated that up to a quarter of the complex has been destroyed. This is a situation that must not be allowed to go on.

Just last week, in an indication of what could happen if the destruction continues, the Kenyan government cancelled the commissioning of the 60MW Sondu Miriu hydroelectricity project because the water levels in the holding dam were insufficient. The river that feeds the $185 million project originates from the forest.

Elsewhere, reports have emerged that the rivers flowing from the complex to such wildlife sanctuaries as Lake Nakuru and the Mara-Serengeti triangle are drying up, putting the region’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry at risk. Also being affected is agriculture and the domestic water supply situation in the region.

Already, the United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that Kenya is losing nearly $300 million annually due to the degradation of the Mau and other forests. Significantly, since many of its rivers flow into Lake Victoria, destruction of the forest complex will have implications beyond Kenya into the Nile basin.

In the circumstances, it is imperative that the basic resolutions of the inter-ministerial consultative committee, which met with various stakeholders under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, be implemented without delay.

These include the relocation of the estimated 3,000 families who have settled in the complex by October 30, as well as the demarcation and fencing of the forest complex.

It is unfortunate, in the event, that sections of Kenya’s ever-squabbling political class seem intent to scuttle the resolutions of the inter-ministerial committee. The politicians must realise that the Mau forest is too important to the people of East Africa to be sacrificed for partisan interests.

If it is allowed to die, human deaths will follow.