, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 15 – Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has challenged the government to kick out Mau forest settlers as they negotiate for compensation.
Professor Maathai said on Tuesday that this should be the first action for the government to demonstrate commitment to conserve the 400,000 hectares water tower.
She accused the government of dilly dallying as more and more people moved into the forest hoping they would benefit from compensation.
“At the same time we are crying that our people are dying but we continue to see destruction,” Professor Maathai said.
“I wish we could do like Tanzania which asked people to get out of the forest and negotiate when they are outside the forest but not when they are still destroying it,” she added.
The Mau forest complex which is the largest water tower has recently been a subject of debate following heavy destruction through illegal logging and settlement leading to severe water shortage in the country.
The issue has been highly politicised with some legislators saying it would be inhuman to vacate the settlers without giving them an alternative.
Recommendations made by a 21-member taskforce formed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga to look into the issue are yet to be implemented.
Environment Minister John Michuki said the matter was complicated because it was being handled by more than one ministry.
“But 1,962 people deserve to be compensated and because the search for land where they can be settled is taking too long, it is my opinion that we should now quickly arrange to pay them cash to clear out of the forest,” the Minister said.
“The rest, send the administration police and General Service Unit to get rid of them,” he added.
According to the Kenya Forest Service about 100,000 hectares of the total forest were already depleted through encroachment and illegal allocation.
At the same time the Minister said the government would invest Sh80 billion annually for tree planting and growing.
Mr Michuki said they had developed a program that would guide this investment for the next 20 years to assist in mitigating the impact of climate change.
“Kenya is challenged on how to mitigate and to adapt to climate change. Changes in economic practices and a movement towards investment in a climate-smart economic development are invariably the direction to go and this demands that we work together for the benefit of our individual people,” he said.
He was speaking at the launch of a World Bank report on the impact of climate change on development where he said there was need for international cooperation in promoting adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
“I want to emphasise that Kenya will be expecting an equitable and effective climate change deal(in Copenhagen) that will not only effectively tackle issues of both adaptation and mitigation but will also apply the principle that the polluter pays,” the Minister said.
The World Bank report stated that poverty and high dependence on agriculture for economic growth were the main reasons why Kenya and other developing countries would be hardest hit by the impacts of climate change.
Lead Natural Resources Management Specialist Julia Bucknall said as the climate continued to be unpredictable, agricultural yields would change and this would affect many economies in developing nations.
She said although everyone had a role to play in mitigating the effects, the developed nations should take the lead by reducing green house gas emissions.
“Twenty years ago we didn’t have funds for climate change but since then there are a bunch of climate finance activities that are making a difference and these are very promising,” Ms Bucknall said.
“They certainly need to be scaled up and right now the financing is less than five percent of the amount that will be needed in 2030 so there is a lot more money needed,” she added.
World Bank Country Director Johannes Zuth said Kenya was already experiencing some of these effects of adverse climate change with reduced agricultural productivity and increased disease.
“The present situation here in Kenya is just an example of these vulnerabilities and their impacts on the poor,” he said.
“Partly due to climate change, the drought cycle over the last century has accelerated and the impacts of these frequently recurring droughts are now plain to see. Kenya’s current experience shows climate change is an important issue for those who are interested in promoting development and achieving a permanent reduction in poverty,” he added.