NAIROBI, Feb 14 – A new United Nations atlas of Kenya shows a deteriorating geographical environment, highlighting the urgency for the government to invest in "green" development.,
The 168-page atlas, prepared by the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), depicts how decades of environmental degradation has affected development opportunities in Kenya.
‘Kenya: Atlas of Our Changing Environment,’ launched in Nairobi by Environment Minister John Michuki and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, is the first to document environmental changes in a single country through satellite images over the past 30 years.
The report, which has used satellite images to pin-point shrinking tea-growing belts, disappearing lakes, rising loss of forests and increased mosquito breeding grounds, has highlighted the need to invest in ‘green’ development.
"It highlights some success stories of environmental management around the country, but it also puts the spotlight on major environmental challenges including deforestation, soil erosion and coastal degradation," Mr Steiner said.
He said that Kenya must guard the environment if it is to develop.
Mr Steiner stressed that making the leap from poverty to prosperity entails a "green" path.
The atlas’ findings conclude that land available to each Kenyan has fallen from 7.2 to only 1.7 hectares between 1960 and 2005 due to population increase, soaring from eight million in 1960 to the current 38 million.
"The population is expected to continue growing, with land available per person forecast to shrink to 0.3 hectares by 2050," the report says.
Only a two degree Celsius climb in temperature would render large parts of Kenya unsuitable for tea growing, which accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total export earnings.
"Lake Olbollosat (in Central Kenya), which has dried up and come back to life in the past, may disappear for good this time due to rapid population growth and the conversion of land cover within its catchment," the UNEP chief said.
Kenya’s national development blueprint, "Vision 2030", describes the challenges before the country, including youth unemployment and rapid urbanization, and the targets to meet, such as sustained economic growth in the next two decades.