NEW YORK, Sep 22 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has begun a formal campaign for the restoration of the Mau Forest Complex and other water towers with a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The PM held a series of talks with delegations and heads of various development organisations whom he briefed in detail on the fate of Kenya’s water towers.
"No agenda is as important to the country today as that of climate change. In Kenya, we are feeling the heat of the change and conservation has moved to the top of our national agenda," he said.
Mr Odinga also held a meeting with UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Secretary Lord Nick Stern whom he presented with a book detailing the country’s changing environment and its water towers.
The book titled ‘Kenya Atlas for Changing Environment’ details the changes that had taken place in Kenya’s water towers – Mau, the Aberdares, Mt Kenya, Cherangany and Mt Elgon – since independence.
The PM said environmental conservation had moved to the top of the country’s development agenda and appealed for support.
"We have fenced the Aberdares and we have taken action on Mt Kenya. We are now dealing with the Mau, our biggest water tower whose destruction has left the country exposed," he said.
He said the country was living between two disasters of drought and floods as a result of climate change and environmental degradation.
“The drought is developing into a serious crisis especially among pastoralist communities who are losing their livestock by the thousands,” he said.
"The rains that were a permanent feature in the afternoons in Kericho are disappearing. Lake Nakuru is shrinking and many rivers are drying up because of the degradation of the Mau," he added.
The PM said Kenya needed support in evicting people from the water towers and to plant new trees.
Lord Stern said he was familiar with the situation in the Mau and pledged that Britain was willing to help. But he asked the PM to rally Africa to take a united position at the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen if the continent was to get good deal.
“A united position by Africa would force the US to move with speed to ratify a new environment pact,” Dr Stern said.
He asked the Kenyan government to develop a strong means of conveying information on the need to conserve the water towers and said people were usually slow to see the link between environmental degradation and changing climate.
The PM held similar talks with Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation and the Millennium Challenge Cooperation group in New York.
He is also set for a meeting with former US President Bill Clinton.