Monday, September 13, 2010

New law will help replenish forest cover- Isaac Kalua

Posted Sunday, August 15 2010 at 19:37
With a miserable forest cover of about two per cent coupled with other issues of climate change, Kenya faces numerous environmental challenges that have adversely affected the ecosystem and livelihoods.
The new Constitution hopes to reinstate the forest cover, firmly deal with the challenges of climate change, and better lives. We must think green and act green!
The following suggestions may enable Kenya to increase its forest cover to 10 per cent while enhancing good health and improving livelihoods through environmental conservation efforts.
The government should address double gazettement of forests such as Mt Kenya and Shimba Hills at the Coast. The two have been gazetted as forests, and at the same time as national and game reserves.
But whereas the Forests Act 2005 allows community participation in conservation, the Wildlife Act doesn’t. This has adversely affected conservation.
Not only are the lead agencies, the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) at a loss on who should take charge of the areas, our partners are unsure who to deal with.
The KFS has an acute shortage of staff which has seen cases of destruction escalating in most parts of the country.
The government should recruit more forest guards, purchase vehicles and helicopters for surveillance of the forests, procure fire-fighting equipment, and train the guards in fire-fighting techniques.
Sustainability of the forestry sector depends on its self-financing ability. Currently, the sector heavily relies on donor support.
The government should speed up the implementation of forest reforms to revitalise the saw-milling sector that has demonstrated an ability to make the enterprise sustainable.
The government may not have the capacity to replant the forests destroyed, nor to deal with all the challenges brought about by climate change globally.
I suggest, therefore, that it speeds up the process of bringing on board various development partners who may include governments, the private sector, local and international NGOs, and various agencies with interest in conserving the environment as a core business or as a corporate social responsibility initiative.
The Concessioning Framework being developed by KFS should be fast-tracked since once endorsed, it will automatically overrule the 1999 logging ban that has muted growth in the sector by watering down partnership possibilities.
The Forests Act 2005 should be strictly enforced as it provides for tough procedures before excisions take place. The requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment, and a process that must have Parliament’s endorsement has effectively deterred casual degazettement.
A case in point is the attempted construction of a radioactive waste disposal facility at Oloolua Forest and the construction of Nyandarua North District headquarters in Ndaragwa Forest, Nyahururu.
The government should not proceed with these constructions inside gazetted forests. Parliament should outlaw any further excision of forests and introduce stiffer penalties for those engaged in destroying the environment.
Dr Kalua is the founder chairperson of the Green Africa Foundation.

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