, NAIROBI, Kenya, October 2 – The National Environment management Authority has directed the Kenya Forest Service(KFS) to enforce the provisions of the Forest Act in a bid to conserve forests and biological diversity.
Acting Director General Ayub Shaka said KFS should in the next three months secure all state forests and stop any further human encroachment.
He said efforts should be made to stop livestock grazing, logging charcoal burning and cultivation within the forests.
"As NEMA we are very concerned that our forests might get degraded very fast and that is why we have issued a directive to the Kenya Forest Service to enforce the provisions of the Forest Act in order to sustainably manage and conserve forests in the country," he said.
The NEMA boss pointed out that should the Kenya Forest service fail in this endeavour, the environmental authority will be forced to intervene.
"The Authority may itself perform or cause to be performed the duties in question and the expense incurred by it in so doing shall be a civil debt recoverable by the authority by the lead agency," he said.
He quoted section 12 of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act which stipulates that NEMA shall intervene in a case where the lead agency fails to comply with the directive.
According to the Act, \’The Authority may after giving reasonable notice of its intention to do so, direct a lead agency to perform within such a time and in such a manner as it shall specify any of the duties imposed upon the lead agency by or under this Act or any other written law in the field of environment.\’
The Act continues to state, \’and if the lead agency fails to comply, with such directions, the Authority may itself perform or cause to be performed the duties in question and the expense incurred by it in so doing shall be a civil debt recoverable by the Authority from the lead agency.\’
Mr Shaka says NEMA will be keenly monitoring activities within the forests in the next three months.
"We have already issued an order whose duration is three months and we want to see these activities happen," he said.
Meanwhile, the KFS Director David Mbugua underscored the great role played by forests in the country.
He said other than acting as water catchment areas, forests acted as natural habitats for wildlife which is key in bringing in tourists.
While stating efforts by KFS to evict illegal settlers from the forests, Mr Mbugua pointed out that the bill of rights under the new constitution limited their work.
"People are going to court and we are getting orders not to evict those people residing in forests. Some of these orders are actually impeding on our enforcement function," he said. "So even as we look and see how best to reserve and conserve our forests we are also considering the Bill of rights as enshrined in our new constitution very carefully."
He called on all Kenyans owning land to plant trees in 10 percent of their land in a bid to increase the country\’s forest cover.
"The constitution does mandate us as Kenyans to put forestry cover to at least 10 percent. That gives Kenyans a responsibility to plant trees on their land," he affirmed.
"For us to put 10 percent of our land under forest cover we have to move out from our protected areas and we have already started to do so," he stated.