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Kenya PM defends new Mau team

NAIROBI,Kenya, Sept 4 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Friday that the Interim Coordinating Secretariat of the Mau Forest Complex is mandated with forming a work programme for line ministries that are involved in the reclamation of the water tower.

Speaking during its inauguration, the PM said the 12-man team’s specific terms of reference are; to coordinate the implementation of the short-term recommendations made by the Task Force to restore the Mau Forests Complex and to develop the framework for long-term measures to restore and sustainably manage the Mau Forests Complex.

He said the team will not function as a taskforce and appealed to politicians to cooperate with the government in the restoration and conservation of the Mau.

"I want to correct professor (Wangari) Maathai who had yesterday (Thursday) challenged me against setting up another taskforce. I want her to know this is not another taskforce; this is a secretariat that is coordinating the implementation of recommendations contained in the (taskforce) report.”

"So we have moved on from taskforces to implementation, from now on the journey to save the Mau has began," he said

2004 Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai had rubbished the Secretariat as a political move and a ploy by the government to buy time and divert attention from the Mau evictions.

Mr Odinga, however, said the plan to restore the Mau is an ambitious and necessary tool that can only be met by political determination.

“I urge fellow politicians to avoid inciting people against this noble goal that aims to restore one of the most important water towers in this region to its original state,” he said.

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Secretariat Chairman, former Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan has a two-year period to restore the Mau to its original state.

Mr Hassan said they will release their work programme after meeting donors next week.

"Many would like to know about time frames and talk of evictions; we will ensure that the implementation of recommendations will be done in an orderly and systematic manner. It will not be a haphazard approach, it will have a human face, we are dealing with human lives. We must protect our forest and the same time treat our people humanely,” he said

The focus areas of the Secretariat include resettlement, management, restoration and resource mobilization.

Mr Odinga said the government would soon enact a law establishing a national coordination authority that will look at conserving the Mau and other water towers including Mt Kenya, the Cherangany Hills, the Aberdares and Mt Elgon, in order to avert a worse catastrophe.

He posed: “Is that a risk really worth taking? What is the point of gambling away our future? Why can’t we take the wisest course and adopt the precautionary approach?”

The Premier added that the Sondu-Miriu Hydropower Plant is running below its installed capacity. “This plant is producing 15 megawatts instead of 60 megawatts of power as a result of the destruction of the Mau.”

 “We don’t have the luxury of hoping that some wonderful thing from the blues will eventually turn up and save us,” he said.

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