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Fears as Karura Forest cleared

Tuesday October 7 2008


Environmentalists have raised the red flag over a project in Karura Forest.

The Green Belt Movement coordinator Lilian Muchungi called for close scrutiny of activities in the forest to prevent logging.

The Kenya Forestry Service project seeks to rid Karura of the eucalyptus and blue gum trees and replace them with indigenous species.

New species

The forestry services says the aim is to clear the area —a 15-hectare chunk — to create space for the new species. The effort seems to echo Green Belt’s agenda that tends to favour indigenous tree species, but the organisation remains cautious.

The forests’ public relations officer Raphael Mworia told the Nation that the project was sponsored by the Unep and the Kenya Red Cross.

Unep’s country coordinator Henry Ndede confirmed that the programme was on. Mr Mworia said the project had led to the employment of 80 internally displaced people from Mathare slums.

When the Nation visited the site along River Ruaka, logs and poles were on the ground as the youths continued splitting and felling more trees using power saws.

Ms Muchungi said the project needed to be closely monitored to prevent private developers from taking over the land.

Private developers

“We’ve written to the Forestry Department to ensure that this is not an avenue to make the land available to private developers,” she said.

She also demanded that the contractor be made known to the public.

“The trees are public property. We have to know who is reaping from the sweat of Kenyans,” Ms Muchungi said.

But the forestry service maintained that everything was being done under the procurement laws and the process was above board.

Calls to the head of conservancy at the forestry service went unanswered as her phone was off. She was said to be in a meeting.

Runda residents complained that in just two weeks, 30 years of growth had been destroyed, but the forestry service said a notice had been sent to them.