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PM chairs Mau forest forum

NAIROBI, July 15 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga is currently chairing a high profile consultative meeting with various Ministers and key partners on the controversy facing the Mau forests eviction and seek possible solutions to the problem.

This follows the launch by the Premier in late May a process to save the forests from further destruction.

The meeting is expected to come up with a practical plan to conserve the Mau forest.

Various groups and individuals are scheduled to give their views and possible solutions to the problem.

The meeting which is taking place at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) comes in the wake of an eviction threat by Narok County Council to over 3,000 families living in the forest.

The families have sought High Court orders to stop the eviction.

In his opening remarks the Prime Minister noted that the continued degradation of the forests is a threat to key sectors of the economy like agriculture and tourism.

“The ecological destruction is also a threat to our urban areas and to the livelihoods of millions of people in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya,” he noted.

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“The destruction of this vital natural asset, which is the largest of our five water towers and as large as Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares combined, would in fact deal a devastating blow to the country’s entire economy and people,” the PM added.

He noted that damaging the forest would also cause many rivers in the country to dry.

Raila outlined the major threats to the forests as illegal logging and deforestation, extensive illegal and irregular settlements and ill informed excision of forest lands for unplanned settlements.

He is expected to give his final recommendations on the way forward this afternoon.

Speaking separately in an interview with Capital News, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai urged the government to resist the pressure of allowing people to live in the forests.

“I know that the government is under a lot of pressure to open these forests and reintroduce the shamba system (which allows farming in the forest). Once we open them it will be a flood gate and nobody can convince me that they will have the capacity to stop the destruction,” she said.

Maathai said this would ensure the few remaining forests are protected.

“They want to say that they have nowhere to go but I know that if the government wanted to settle people they could. Many people in this country have literally thousands of acres of land and the government should be able to buy some of this land to resettle those who are genuinely settled on forest land.”

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