WWF Director General protests move to degazette Kenyan forestsNairobi, Kenya - WWF�s Director General, Dr Claude Martin has written to the Government of Kenya protesting the impending degazettement of more than 10 per cent of the country�s forests.
Dr Martin�s protest note comes one day ahead of the 'Ides of March' deadline the Government had set for the public to voice its views before the decision was effected.
�It is with great concern that I have learnt of your Government�s intention to convert more than 67,000 hectares of critical catchment forests into human settlements by de-gazettement,� Dr Martin said.
The letter was addressed to Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Bonaya Godana and copied to his Lands and Settlement counterpart, Joseph Nyagah and Environment Minister, Francis Nyenze.
The Director General urged the Government to rescind its decision to hive off huge chunks of prime forest in view of the importance of the targeted forests.
�We would encourage you to undertake an environment impact assessment in order to get a clearer picture of the costs and benefits of such a decision on the immediate stakeholder communities and the nation of Kenya,� Dr Martin implored.
He acknowledged the Kenyan Government�s dilemma in attempting to strike a balance between conservation and meeting the demands of a growing population and development.
�However,� he cautioned, �we are already experiencing numerous problems as a result of deforestation. Indeed, your country Kenya is listed among those experiencing water stress.�
Dr Martin cited the case of Nakuru town, where WWF has been working for the last 12 years, which has been without water for months on end now.
Meanwhile, pressure geared at averting the move is still on and growing. On Tuesday this week, the clergy joined the fray by handing over more than 500 signatures they had collected for a petition from their followers.
The Green Belt Movement has announced that it has collected more than 20,000 signatures, way above its original 3,000 target for handing over to the government.
Its Coordinator, Prof Wangari Maathai however said; �This is not the end, rather it is the beginning of things to come.�
The Government, on its part appears resolutely firm on its intentions, as new unconfirmed reports emerge that there are plans to de-gazette even more forests.
It has created an inter-ministerial committee to review petitions, but it is not bound to act in line with public opinion, legal experts say.
Stop Press: In a bid to halt the government's decision, a Kenyan environmental lawyer yesterday obtained a Kenyan High Court injunction temporarily halting the process. The forests will now remain state property until a case filed against the Minister for Environment is heard and determined.
For further information contact:
Catherine Mgendi, Communications Officer, WWF Eastern Africa Programme Office (EARPO). Tel: + 254 2 577 355