, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 21 – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai on Tuesday lashed out at the government for its failure to take decisive action to salvage Kenya’s main water catchment area, Mau Forest, from extinction.
She told Capital News that the government had failed to walk its talk by allowing political bickering instead of concentrating on restoring the country’s dwindling catchment area.
“The government needs to think very seriously, there is no use shedding crocodile tears when people and animals are dying then start appealing to the international community for food,” she said.
“Is it that we don’t have enough thinking capacity to project that if we destroy forests we will have a changed rainfall pattern and water shortage?” she queried.
Mau Forest is the largest water catchment area in Kenya and feeds big rivers such as the Ewaso Ng’iro, Sondu, Mara and Njoro which in turn drain into Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Natron.
The world-renowned environmentalist said the problem was serious since many rivers and lakes were drying up directly affecting the country socially and economically.
The environmentalist noted that the Mara River – well known for the famous wildebeest migration, a main phenomenon in the country’s tourism- was already experiencing the impact of the destroyed forest.
“During this current season, there was little water, the animals were jumping hitting the ground and breaking their hooves,” she noted.
The former Tetu legislator asked the government to name and shame people who own land in the catchment area if it was truly committed to reclaiming the forest.
She said: “If the government wanted to be honest, it will reveal the names you will be shocked. The reason why it will not be released is because the government does not want to reveal who are there. It is our ruling elite who are doing the damage to the Mau.”
Prof Maathai further accused some politicians of using the poor local population that has settled on the water catchment area in the pretence of protecting them from eviction.
“When people say they don’t want ‘their people’ removed. Who is not your people? They are using those poor people as scapegoats,” she said alleging that powerful individuals allocated themselves huge pieces of land and gave small pieces to poor people to cover up their ownership.
Mau Forest is not the only water source threatened by human invasion in Kenya.
The Green Belt Movement Founder said Nairobi’s wetlands were also at risk with an increasing number of private developers ‘miraculously’ getting title deeds to make constructions on them.
She said it was disturbing to see people going without water because a few people had decided to destroy green open spaces reserved for guarding the environment.
She linked the ongoing water crisis to the destruction and interferences on rivers and constructions of wetlands.
“Those who are affected, we cannot allow ourselves to be walked over by greedy individual who are watching from their mayoral palaces as people starve and line up for water,” she said.
She announced that the Green Belt Movement will launch a campaign on Wednesday dubbed, ‘Enough is Enough’ as a strategy of reclaiming grabbed wetlands and protecting the existing ones.