Raila should not give up on Mau forest

Politics has once again dominated the planned eviction of squatters from the Mau forest. While on a tour in the area last weekend Prime Minister Raila Odinga ruled out new evictions from the water tower.

The reason he gave for his sudden change of mind was more political than anything else. The PM said he would not forget the support he got from the Kipsigis in the 2007 General Election (close to 1.3 million votes) and that he was not like a dog that gives birth and later feeds on its puppies.

My humble advice to the PM here is that he should focus on the bigger picture and not be swayed by short term vision that will further erode gains made to restore the water tower that is the source of 12 rivers, and therefore a lifeline for millions of Kenyans.

The move by Mr Odinga came at a time when MPs from the region have openly opposed the planned eviction of squatters from the forest. It is disheartening to hear MPs incite people not to leave the forests as if they do not understand the repercussions of such a move.

Scientific reports say several lakes and rivers that feed on the water tower will dry up soon if the Mau ecosystem is not protected.

The Premier should therefore not shy from making unpopular decisions that will greatly benefit future generations. He should work to convince the local leadership that the move will be for the greater public good and he should be ready to risk his political career to drive the point home.

Mr Odinga should be the one to quell the sharp divisions that have emerged among members of a taskforce that he formed in July last year to inquire into the destruction of the key water catchment area. The much awaited report is crucial as it will spell out how communities illegally residing in the complex will be evicted.

He should inculcate a sense of environmental protection, conservation and sustainable exploitation of resources among politicians in the area who a majority belongs to his party. 

He should tell the leaders that most rivers in the area are drying up due to human activities and that Kenyans of goodwill must co-operate and stop destroying the water tower. 

Mr Prime Minister should advocate that wetlands regulations must be observed to the letter and stave off turning such ecosystems into farmlands as has happened with Lake Olbassot in Nyandarua.

Mr Odinga should not allow politicians to play politics with the life-saving Mau Forest issue.

As the 21 member Mau taskforce committee prepares to release its report, the PM should be in the forefront to save the water tower from further depletion. He should not be like the dog that gives birth and later feeds on its puppies nor should he let the tail wag the dog.

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