Wangari Maathai cries for forests

March 20, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has accused top multinational companies in the country of degrading Kenya’s forests and ecosystems in order to make profits.

Prof Maathai alleged that some companies in the timber industry had failed to conserve the country’s environment, despite calls to do so, while others continued building on riparian reserves thereby interfering with the water flow.

Prof Maathai, who singled out a leading bank as one of those that were putting up structures on a river reserve, argued that such companies undermined efforts to conserve the environment.

“He (the developer) is going to build on the river, channel the water and even make it impossible for us to expand the road accessing UNEP and we do not want that; so can someone please tell Mr Diamond to leave that place alone. Can the government give him an alternative land?” she challenged.

She added that her Green Belt Movement and other conservationists would soon stage demonstrations against the said construction. Prof Maathai challenged such companies to be at the forefront of Kenya’s conservation campaigns.

“Just tell that company to listen because we’ll be there shouting for nothing and some of us have lost our voice; but we’ll still be there with our twigs. This is your country as much as it is ours so stop destroying it,” she said.

The Nobel Laureate also called for a total ban of human settlements in forest ecosystems saying they were an abuse to the environment. Prof Maathai explained that the shamba system, which was introduced in Kenya by the British, should not have any place in Kenya’s attempts to rebuild the water towers.

She added that the system was in direct conflict with conservation. 

“Conservation and the shamba system cannot go together. If we were to say allow people to come into Karura and cultivate maize and sukuma wiki before too long the forest would be gone; we would just have a few trees,” she said.

Prof Maathai, who was speaking after a breakfast meeting with the Friends of Karura initiative, added that the government should replace eucalyptus trees with indigenous trees so as to facilitate the country’s conservation efforts.

She asked the government to lease out land to retailers of timber so as to reduce the impact such companies had on the country’s forests.

“I don’t know why foresters have refused to see the contradiction between conserving forests and introducing these trees. And I know we need timber but we can make our farmers producers of timber, just like we have them producing coffee and tea,” she said.

She also reiterated her past statements saying the country’s economy would be at risk if the environment was not properly conserved.

Prof Maathai further lauded efforts made by several companies and individuals in the country towards sustaining the environment. Among those she recognized was the wife to British High Commissioner to Kenya Alice Macaire, Serena Group of Hotels and the East African Breweries Limited.

The Friends of Karura Forest initiative also called on Nairobi residents to donate towards maintaining and conserving it.

One can donate to the forest’s conservancy campaign by getting a membership subscription or by simply visiting the forest at a cost of Sh100 per person. Nature trails, bird watching and picnicking are among the activities one can participate in at the forest.

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