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Don’t politicise desert march

Sunday August 31 2008

AS WAS WIDELY EXPECTED, the issue of the Mau forest was bound to be politicised.

Already, some legislators from the area have declared they would not co-operate with the task force set up to study the most efficacious way of removing and resettling those who had invaded and nearly destroyed the Mau.

When the evictions do actually begin, the yells of protest by political leaders, some of whom grabbed parcels of the forest, will be begin in earnest.

There is nothing more saddening than to hear political leaders who should know better vehemently opposing moves to protect that water tower.

There is absolutely nothing political about halting the wanton destruction of a forest that constitutes the basis of livelihoods of tens of millions of Kenyans, not to mention neighbouring countries.

Mau forest is not any different from similar water catchment areas such as those of Mt Kenya, the Aberdare range or Mt Elgon which, to its credit, the Government has in the last few years moved to salvage.

Private corporations, local and international NGOs, as well as environmentalists have done wonders to restore the Aberdares. This mountain range is the source of rivers, which are in turn the source of life for millions.

The Mau Forest is unique. This complex is made up of the South, Western, Eastern, and Southern Mau, Transmara, Mau Narok and Maasai Mara.

It is the source of 12 major rivers that span the western and eastern parts of Kenya.

They are the ones that drain the Mara Game Reserve, Lake Nakuru (whose famous flamingoes have taken to flight in droves), Sondu Miriu, Lake Naivasha, Lakes Baringo and Elementaita, and as far north as Lake Turkana. Rivers Yala, Nyando, Sondu and Nzoia continue to receive depleted water volumes.

Experts from Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Working Group, Forest Department, and environmentalists paint a picture that is extremely grim: one of creeping desertification, depleted rivers and lakes, not to mention debilitating climate change.

It is, therefore, difficult to understand what our ‘representatives take to be their national duties.

Destroying the environment for quick pecuniary or political gains cannot be what they are supposed to defend.

If anything, the country should be galvanised into expanding forest and vegetation cover from a paltry two per cent to the internationally accepted 10 per cent.

Examples abound as to how wanton destruction of water towers quickly beget desertification.

A study done by a British researcher in the early part of the previous century describes what happened in Ukambani.

The researcher says that the Mua Hills, Chyulu and other parts of Machakos/Makueni areas were virtual orchids, producing wines, fruit jams, citrus and similar produce due to the chilly climate.

“Then waves of hot climatic air started sweeping the area, wiping out the orchards”, he wrote. The massive logging of the forest for charcoal and timber destroyed the place. Now people there survive on food relief.

Do the Rift Valley legislators want the same to happen to the whole republic and neighbouring countries?

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