Sunday, January 26, 2020
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A photo of an open quarry site. According to the NEMA regulations, quarry miners  are supposed to prevent pollution ,control blasting, soil erosion, rehabilitate excavated areas, and ensure dust control.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has closed down a quarry in Mukunike area in Kilimambogo, Thika East Sub-county- Kiambu County, following a public outcry, that it was endangering lives of locals.

NEMA directed Chinese firm Synohydro Corporation Ltd, which operates the site to stop operations until they mitigate the effects of blasts from explosives that they use and the resultant dust pollution.

The move by NEMA to close down the quarry which has been operating in the area for three years also comes as residents held demonstrations last week protesting over destruction of their houses by stones from the site, kilometers away, with some stating the stones missed landing on them by metres.

The area residents had also complained of chest pains and breathing complications caused by dust from the site.

NEMA Kiambu County Director, Daniel Nyamora said the company will only be allowed to continue with operations after complying with NEMA rules and regulations.

“The company should stop operations until they mitigate the blasts and also on dust pollution. Then, we shall visit the site to monitor compliance before the company can be allowed to continue with operations”, said Nyamora.

Nyamora was speaking when a team led by Kiambu Deputy County Commissioner, Thomas Sankei, and county government officials and the area Member of Parliament (MP), Patrick Wainaina’s representative visited the site.

Sankei said the quarry had been a nuisance to the community and that it had been closed four times before, but found its way into operation again.

Residents led by Chairman Mukunike squatters, Paul Kimanyi, complained that their houses had developed huge cracks from the blasts.

A Machine crashes ballast at the site. area residents complained of destruction of houses and health complications

“The dust, noise, health concerns and property destruction has gotten in this community has become unbearable. We have fruitlessly engaged the company managers who have turned out to be arrogant. We are tired; we want this quarry closed to restore our peace. The quarry actually does not help us since the owners have imported workers,” said Kimanyi.

 

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The government has widened the net to incorporate more partners including Equity Bank into the aggressive tree planting campaign that aims at achieving the 10% forest cover in the country.

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Board Chairman Peter Kinyua said besides chipping in Sh50 million into tree planting and environment conservation the government is bringing on board more stakeholders in order to achieve the vision.

“As I speak, Equity Bank has agreed to lower interest rates for farmers who want to buy seedlings to plant in their pieces of land which should be a big boost to what the government has provided,” said the KFS chairman.

Speaking during a tree planting event at Kiurani Boys’ High School. Maara Sub-county in Tharaka Nithi county Kinyua further disclosed that with the help of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) and local leaders, KFS will be able to strengthen the security of trees on mountains and hills.

“Kenya Forest Service can do very little to protect Kiera hill without your support and your leaders. As the community near this hill you are best placed to partner with us in protecting it by reporting those who are involved in cutting the trees,” said the KFS Boss referring to a hill in the neighbourhood.

Kinyua also noted that through CFAs the community will be able to benefit with projects such as bee keeping which is currently a very lucrative income generating activity in many parts of the country.

Speaking during the event Tharaka Nithi County Executive Committee (CEC) member for Lands, Physical Planning, Urban Development, Water & Irrigation, Environment and Natural Resources Eng. Jasper Nkanya asked the community to support institutions and other stakeholders involved in maintaining the environment.

The CEC revealed that the county government is working together with national government and other stakeholders to ensure that trees are planted all over the county.

Eng. Nkanya however, asked the KFS and other stakeholders, to allocate one of the 40 hills in the county to the Kenya Tea Development Authority and more specifically Weru Tea Factory for them to be planting and harvesting trees and lessen the burden of buying them from individual farms.

“The haphazard purchase of trees from individual farmers exposes the areas to environmental degradation since most farmers do not replace the trees as often as they sell them,” stressed the CEC.

 

The Deputy Environment Conservator of forests Patrick Kariuki asked the CFAs and KFS to visit schools and institutions to educate the young generation on environment conservation for future value.

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CS Keriako Tobiko (L) with Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya at Maasai Mau forest during a a tree planting exercise in Mau forest.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya has warned politicians against inciting the Mau Forest evictees by buying them land at the forest boundary.

Natembeya who addressed journalists after a meeting with top security officers at Nkoben part of the Maasai Mau Forest Saturday, observed some influential leaders were trying to jeopardize government’s effort by not allowing the evictees return to their original homes.

The vocal Regional Commissioner who also led the evictions from the forest in the first phase in 2018 when he was Narok County Commissioner wondered why the e sympathizers of the evictees had to buy them land that was just close to the cut line yet there was enough land elsewhere.

“We will not allow the evictees to settle less than ten kilometers from the forest cutline so as to desist from temptations of going back to the forest land,” said Natembeya.

However, he said that in exception cases, individuals will be allowed to buy at least five acres near the forest cutline but not where many families are to be settled.

At the same time, Natembeya lauded the operation officers for successfully completing phase two voluntary exercise successfully and in a humane manner.

“The exercise was carried out very successfully without major incidences reported despite threats from a section of leaders to derail the mission,” he continued.

He revealed that other forests on target for a similar exercise include Marmanet, Embobut and Kaptagat forest.

“We are in a mission of regaining the lost forest land hence we will not relent until all settled forest land is fully recovered,” he said.

He called on the public to take advantage of the ongoing rains to attain the ten per cent required forest cover.

His calls comes a month after a successful phase two voluntary eviction of close to 60,000 families from the Maasai Mau Forest and subsequent reforestation launch of 10 million seeds and seedlings.

A new aerial seedling spray technology was used on 3,000 hectares where 13 species weighing 1980 Kilograms were sprayed.

The first phase of the evictions was completed last year and had successfully reclaimed 4,500 hectares stretching from Nkoben to Kosia parts that were largely encroached.

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Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot, PS, Post Training and Skills Development, Ministry of Education plants a tree as he led his staff in a tree planting campaign in Kibiko forest.

The Principal Secretary in the State Department of Post Training and Skills Development, Ministry of Education, Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot, has lauded the Government’s tremendous efforts, through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, in ensuring there is no encroachment on government land and especially forests and water towers, noting that, currently, huge acreage of land had been reclaimed  and put under trees.

The Principal Secretary made the remarks on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, when he led staff members from his department in planting over 500 indigenous tree seedlings in Kibiko area of Ngong forest, Kajiado County, with the main aim of supporting the Government’s effort  to increase forest cover in the country from the current 7.2 per cent, to 10 per cent  by the year 2022. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, through the Chief Conservator of Forests, has already indicated that, it has  about 2.5 million hectares in public forests and was thus calling upon Kenyans, including the private sector, Government agencies and  local communities to render support, in terms of tree planting.

The PS reiterated the importance of forests, noting that, forests support all aspects of our lives from being the most important source of energy for a vast majority of our population, to supporting key sectors of the economy in the agricultural, energy, manufacturing and tourism sectors among others, while at the same time, also regulating the environment by sequestering carbon to give us clean air.

Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot, PS, Post Training and Skills Development, Ministry of Education addressing staff members, after the tree planting campaign in Kibiko forest.

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A view of a wetland

Laikipia County National Environment Management Authority (NEMA,) has raised a red flag over the ongoing activities in a wetland a few kilometers from Nyahururu town.

Laikipia County, NEMA Director Fanuel Mosago, says that his office received complaints about a possible encroachment of Gathara/ Silale wetland, situated next to Maina village along the Nyahururu/ Rumuruti road.

‘’We have visited the site and found some developers subdividing the land and even beginning to put up temporary structures,’’ he said. Mr. Mosango raised the issue in a letter addressed to the Water resource Authority (WRA), Engare Narok Neighis Sub Region manager and copied to Laikipia County Commissioner, County executive Committee Member (CECM), Nyahururu Sub County Commissioner, County Director National Land Commission, County Water Resource Manager (WRA) and County Physical planner. He called on Engare Narok Neighis, WRA Sub region manager, to help in establishing the status of the wetland in question and how the ownership documents were acquired.

He at the same time said urgent measures should be taken to stop further encroachment of the wetland as investigation goes on.“If necessary, liaise with enforcement agencies and the administration to stop further encroachment of the wetland as its status is being investigated, “Mosago asked the Engare Narok Neighis Sub Region manager.

He told the WRA office to inform the Chair of the County Environment Committee and NEMA office on any actions taken concerning the ongoing encroachment of the wetland.

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Wananchi planting trees to restore a forest land that was occupied by illegal settlers.

More than 4,000 people who had illegally settled in Kirisia forest in Samburu County have volunteered to move out of  the forest. The illegal settlers have also called on the government through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), to support them acquire tree seedlings to enable them plant to regain the destroyed forest cover.

According to the Samburu County KFS Enforcement Commander,  Mr. Geoffery Okeyo, Kirisia Forest, occupies 92,000 hectares in the heartland of Samburu County, and is home to different wildlife and provide livelihood such as honey harvesting to locals as well as sacred grounds for cultural practices.

The Kirisia Community Forest Association (CFA) Chairperson, Douglas Leboiyare, said that those vacating the forest will be resettled along the boundaries of the forest by the KFS, noting that, the CFA held several meetings with community elders together with the KFS to sensitize them on the need of conserve the forest which led to the voluntary vacation.

“Nobody is forcing us out of the forest, we are leaving voluntarily because the CFA and KFS has made us understand the need of conserving this forest,” said Tyson Loldepe, a resident.

The CFA chairperson noted that,  while some are moving back to their ancestral villages, the Ntorobos who historically rely on the forest for survival, will be settled along the forest boundaries in Tamiyoi area in Samburu Central Sub-county. The forest encroachers unanimously agreed to move out of the forest by December 21.

Samburu County KFS Enforcement Commander, Geoffery Okeyo, commended the community for voluntarily vacating, adding that, those found within the forest after the set vacation deadline will be arrested. “Those who will fail to move out will be arrested and charged,” he warned.

 

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Director of Admin., Mr. Henry Obino, flanked by the CCF, Mr. Julius Kamau and other KFS officials, planting a commemorative tree during the KENSJA tree planting campaign.

Journalists under the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association (KENSJA) joined hands to plant over 3,200 trees at Ngong forest as part of their contribution the country’s clamor for a 10 % tree cover.

The journalists from various media houses partnered with the Ministry of Environment , Kenya Forest Service, Kenya wildlife Service, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) among others in the exercise.

Speaking during the event, Director of Administration in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Henry Obino said the Government has made tremendous efforts to ensure there is no encroachment on government land and especially forests and water towers .Obino noted that currently huge acreage of land had been reclaimed  and put under trees adding the government intends to reforests over 22,000 hectares across the country.

“Between now, and the long rainy season of April – June 2020 we plan to plant 500 million trees to boost forest cover. We shall proceed to plant 600 million trees in financial year 2020/2021 and 800 million trees in 2021/2022 financial year to reach the 2 billion trees towards realization of world recommended 10 percent tree cover,” the Director said.

Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) at the Kenya forest Service (KFS) Julius Kamau   said that the public is now aware of the connection between forests and their lives and that was why KFS was pushing planting of trees to increase the cover from the current 7.2 percent to 10 percent by 2022. “We have about 2.5 million hectares in public forests and are thus calling upon Kenyans including the private sector, media and local communities to change the story in terms of tree planting,” Kamau said.

The Director of Admin., Mr. Henry Obino, who represented the CS, Mr. Keriako Tobiko, addressing wananchi at Ngong, during the event.DSC_0278

He thanked the media for the role they play in advancing forest conservation in this country by informing the public the perils of forest degradation as well as the benefits of sustainable forest management. Kamau noted that the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is currently implementing a strategy that employs a multi-sector approach in pooling resources and technical capacity and would like to partner with members of the Fourth Estate especially in increasing the public’s awareness in new approaches to forestry management.

“This includes informing the public about new technologies and techniques in sustaining forestry in the drier parts of the country,” he noted. The CCF challenged KENSJA  to reach out to all journalists across the country saying that as a Service, they are willing and ready to partner with them to make the media tree planting exercise an annual national event.

KENSA Chairman Duncan Mboya said the goals of the journalists are to deliver science reporting in the country, mentor and nurture upcoming journalists and to engage stakeholders on matters of national interests.

“Today marks the beginning of another engagement for journalists that will help send a strong message to all citizens on matters tree planting towards meeting the country’s goal. As we were planning this event, we realized that we were planning a national exercise and therefore decided to bring all journalists who value environment on board, some of whom are nonmembers of the association,” he said. Mboya said that journalists were ready and will continue to partner with the government, KFS and other stakeholders in future tree planting and other environmental conservation efforts towards helping improve tree cover to the international levels and for the betterment of humanity.

The importance of forests for the general well-being of our country cannot be gainsaid since they support all aspects of our lives from being the most important source of energy for a vast majority of our population to supporting key sectors of the economy in the agricultural, energy, manufacturing and tourism sectors among others while also regulating the environment by sequestering carbon to give us clean air.  

Staff from the Public Communications of the Ministry and its SAGA’s taking part during the KENSJA tree planting campaign

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CAS, Hon. Mohammed Elmi, flanked by the Director, Env. Education & Awareness and an official from the Presidency, addressing members of the multi-sectoral team.

The Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Hon. Mohamed Elmi, has underscored the need for Nairobi County residents to segregate waste in their households, in the roadmap to improve waste management, noting that, for the City County to kick start the proposed circular economy in waste management, the residents needed to embrace best practices in waste management and change their undesirable behaviour of waste dumping.

Addressing a multi-sectoral team drawn from the Ministries of Environment and Forestry, the Presidency, Health, Interior, City Hall, KEPSA, KARA, NEMA, UN Habitat and Danish Embassy, at the Ministry’s  boardroom, that is designing a sustainable waste management action plan for Nairobi City County, Hon. Elmi noted that, under the action plan, each household will be provided with three waste receptacles that will be colour corded to represent different types of waste. Green will be for organic, Blue for recyclable while Brown will be for other waste. This, he noted, enable the City to sustainably manage its waste and create a circular economy in the process, and at the same time, create wealth through compositing and recycling of the massive waste collected in the capital city.

Once segregated, it is proposed that Material recovery centres will be established in various sub- counties within Nairobi City County. Such recovery centres will serve as the source for material to compost and recycle.

Hon. Elmi noted that, the process of better waste management will create many jobs and create wealth at the same time.

Members from the multi-sectoral team on the sustainable waste management action plan for Nairobi, listening keenly to the CAS

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A Taita Apalis bird perching onto a tree.

Conservationists are warning that species of two rare birds living in Taita Hills risk becoming extinct, due to severe loss of habitat and use of non-native trees to rehabilitate degraded areas.

Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis are on the Red List of Critically Endangered Birds by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species are only found in Taita Hills.  Critically Endangered category is the final stage before any species is officially declared extinct.

According to IUCN, a global organization that tracks and monitors status of different species of plants and animals, the two birds are dwindling alarmingly. A survey done in August 2018 established that the global population of Taita Apalis stood at between 210 and 430 birds. The numbers of Taita Thrush as at October 2016 was 930.

Mr. John Mlamba, a veteran conservationist, says the fate of the two species hangs by a thread. He adds that rising human population has adversely affected the forests and dense bush where the birds live. This has led to rapid shrinking of habitat which he warns will see the extermination of the feathered beauties.“Human activities like clearing bush for cultivation has robbed the birds their original homes. If nothing is done, we are witnessing the death of the last species of Apalis and Thrush in the world,” he said.

This grim reality comes barely two years after Sudan, the last known male species of White Rhino died in March 2018 at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia County. There has been efforts by the government and other stakeholder to stem this looming catastrophe. One of the deliberate efforts was the launch of Action Plan for Conservation of Critically Endangered Birds in Taita Hills, Kenya 2015-2020. This is comprehensive report by Kenya Wildlife Service and several Kenyan-based conservation groups as part of seeking interventions to halt the decimation of the two birds in Taita Hills.

The report places the population of Taita Thrush at 1,400; a slightly higher figure than the figures earlier given but their survival remain gravely threatened. The bulk of these surviving birds are in Mbololo Forest which houses 1,060 birds. Some 250 others are in Ngangao forest while Chawia Forest has 35 birds. However, it is the Taita Apalis that is giving conservationists sleepless night. The report pegs the population of Apalis at between 300 and 600. They are reducing rapidly due to severe habitat loss arising from human activities and predation. Already, Taita Apalis has completely disappeared from two of their traditional habitats in Chawia and Fururu forests.

Rare sightings of these birds are reported in Iyale, Msidunyi and Ngangao forests. Mr. Mlamba says the biggest threat to the birds’ survival is habitat fragmentation which has confined the birds into tiny colonies separated from each other. This has come about as human settlements crop up in the middle of forests and bushy lands where the birds live. As a result, in-breeding amongst small colonies with a higher male ratio has seen the birds’ population dip sharply.

He says that in early 2006, there were efforts to revive least-cost corridors in farms around Taita Hills. Least-cost corridors was an initiative to encourage farmers to plant indigenous trees in selected places which would link up the fragmented habitats for the birds.

“These corridors would act like bridges which would allow birds from one surviving habitat to move to the next one for mating and hybrid improvement,” he explained. The project, however did not take off due to lack of funds and support from stakeholders.

Mr. Mlamba said that studies by Finland’s University of Helsinki showed that Taita Hills had lost over 90 per cent of its forest cover in the last one century. Sixty per cent of the loss happened in the last 50 years.

He adds that initially, over twenty forests including Chawia, Mbololo, Fururu, Iyale, Msidunyi and Shomoto formed one unbroken continuum of forest cover. This made the birds population thrive. However, settlement in those forests cut off the birds leading to the current situation where they might become extinct.

The 2015-2020 Action Plan report also cites using non-native trees for reforestation as working against the rejuvenation of the birds’ population. As a result, farmers are urged to plant indigenous trees to boost the endangered birds’ numbers.

Mr. Mlamba, who is also the director of Management of Arid Zones and Initiatives for Development Options (MAZIDO) said there was a renewed effort to encourage farmers to plant indigenous trees.

In a program dubbed Vuria Forest Restoration and Livelihood Improvement (Vuforeli) project, his group is working with 1,000 farmers living around the degraded Taita Hills to restore the natural vegetation cover using native trees.

“We are educating farmers on why they should plant indigenous trees. This is the only hope remaining for the birds,” he said.

As part of livelihood improvement, farmers are being encouraged to plant Macadamia trees as an alternative to their preference for non-native trees which they claim are economically beneficial due to timber harvesting.

Nature Kenya, an NGO that deals with conservation of birds, has also joined in the campaign to save the two bird species.

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A file photo of sandal wood tree seedlings in a nursery

Eleven tones of sandalwood worth Sh 44 million has been destroyed at Maralal police station following a court order. The sandal wood which was illegally harvested in Samburu east was confiscated by police officers in July 2019,while being transported in a lorry along the Maralal Wamba road.

The destruction order issued by Maralal Principal Magistrate Richard Koech was executed by burning in the presence of Samburu County Commissioner John Korir and Samburu County police commander Samson Ogello. While speaking after setting the exhibit ablaze in Maralal, county commissioner John Korir said his office would work with other government departments in ending sandalwood business across the county.

“We have Kenya Wildlife Service, police and Kenya Forest Service and principal magistrate we have agreed to jointly work together in ending this kind of business,” Mr Korir said.  The county commissioner said traders who are destroying forest and weeding out sandalwood in the region are non-residents in the county. He challenged residents to conserve forest by preventing people from cutting and even uprooting sandalwood trees.

Korir urged locals to protect their forests from exploitation by greedy people engaging in the illicit business.  “Sandalwood in an endangered species and the illegal harvesters are uprooting even the roots to maximise profits,” said Korir.The sandal wood species grows well in northern Kenya and its oil which has a sweet woodsy smell is a major ingredient for products such as perfumes, aftershaves and incense.

An image of sandalwood

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