Destruction of forests in Kisii County continues even in the face of a ban on logging by the government.
In the last five years alone, at least one forest has been decimated by the county government to give way to a bus park cum market at Keumbu, Nyaribari Chache Sub-county.
The danger facing the forests in the county is further heightened by lack of forest guards to deter destructive human activities.
At Nyangweta, the largest of the eight designated government forests, the effect is apparent as human activities take toll.
What was a thick, dense forest with gigantic and massive pine and eucalyptus trees a decade ago is now a pale shadow of what it means to be a forest.
LINED UP INVESTMENTS
The situation is made worse by huge industrial investments lined to up on the forest’s land.
Plans are also under way to allow an investor to set up a Sh5 billion factory.
On Thursday last week, Kisii Governor James Ongwae was in the Senate petitioning the Lands Committee to allow the hiving off of 120 acres of Nyangweta forest land for the sugar plant.
He said they had already gazetted 900 acres but needed the extra portion.
There are also plans to construct a university campus on part of the land.
When the Nation visited, a huge complex that will house the university was still under construction.
Former South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya says the campus is meant to help poor youth who cannot afford to travel to the main campus in Kisii Town to get education.
Mr Ndege Onguti, a resident and former volunteer guard at the forest, says the absence of forest police worsens the situation.
He said large strips of pine wood have been cut by cartels in the last two years.
Mr Onguti noted that mature trees had long been depleted and what was remaining were slender immature trees which are yet to stimulate the appetite of loggers. He added that land in much of the expansive forest is rocky, sandy and trees planted there take decades to mature.
At Emborogo Forest in Masaba South Sub-county, the entire hilly forest is under threat of extinction.
Thousands of eucalyptus trees planted by the government in the mid-70s have already been cut to pave the way for a primary school and a church.
Locals say they decided to set up Emborogo Primary School to help pupils who used to walk several kilometres to Ramasha and Suguta.
“In Kisii every village has a school. By setting up one here, we have a generation to care for,” said Mr Mogire Onchoke a resident.
However, area assistant chief Stanely Osumu denied destruction of the forest.
County chief forest officer was out and could not give a comment.