African Press International (API)

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The Kenya story – the destruction of Mau forest has captured international headlines for years

Posted by African Press International on June 8, 2009

By Abisalom Omolo

Kenya stands to lose over US $300 million alone to the energy, tea,and tourism sectors if the forest of the Mau Complex continues to be degraded and destroyed at the current rate,this is according to the UN Environment Programme. A new United Nations research ranks Kenya among countries vulnerable to floods and drought due to climate change occasioned by wanton destruction of forests and water catchment areas, the destruction of Mau forest has captured international headlines for years. The destruction of Kenya’s biggest water catchment area is already spelling doom to riparian states like Egypt. Uganda, Tanzania and the entire eastern African states according to a UN report, the petty corruption at the level of the forest guards and local policemen has resulted to constant nightlogging of the Mau forest with environmentalists plea for the government to tighten its environmental laws falling on deaf ears.

A walk in the Mau complex that has 22 forests spanning five districts Narok, Nakuru, Nandi, Bomet and Kericho that represent over 25 per cent of Kenya’s forests and are said to be larger than the Aberdares and Mt Kenya forests,reveals tracks of bear land cleared to pave way for farming ,The indigenous trees have been cleared, plantations of  maize, beans, potatoes, peas and other staples have replaced them. Human interferences in the Mau forest will have devastating environmental effects  not only to Kenyans but also surrounding states, Dr. Gilbert angienda an environmentalist said,. Numerous rivers feeding the worlds second largest fresh water source i.e. lake Victoria have since dried with several on there way down the drain ,it forms catchments for all the major rivers flowing into Lake Victoria Sondu, Yala and Nzoia as well as Ewaso Nyiro, Kerio and Mara, which pastoralist communities rely on. Experts have estimated that between 1967 and 1989, the eastern sector of the complex had lost approximately 28 per cent of its tree cover and that a total of 7,084 hectares of forest cover were cleared from the Mau Complex between 2000 and last year

But the big question really is whatthe problem is atthe mau? Why can’t the Kenyan government flex its mussle and save millions of people whose lives will be destroyed whith the destruction ofd the mau?the answer is behind the mau complex lies tribal politics, corruption and goverment’s inefficiency to implement environmental policies ‘indiscriminate cutting of trees for timber, fuel wood and charcoal burning, clearing of vegetation for agriculture and settlement are the most serious and common  human practices contributing to local or regional environmental degradation, Dr.Angienda said. Most rivers in the Rift valley have become seasonal due to this destruction and the reduction of water flow has seriouse implications on the ecosystem and livelihoods of the communities living downstream.

Livelihoods are destroyed when income from  agriculture, livestock, tourism, andfishing is lost due to weather related disasters initiated by man. According to Nick Nuttall who works for the United Nations Enviromental Programme in Nairobi Kenyathe mau forest destruction remains a major issue in the country as illegal logging and clearing of forests to allow for human settlements and agriculture take priority over environmental conservation currently the mau has been reduced to a a mass of forests patches interspersed with human settlemens and cultivated farms.

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