10 March 2005

Kenya: Forest Plunder Ruining Major Hydro-Power Dams

Nairobi — Dams that produce 60 per cent of Kenya's electricity may soon be no more.

As forests continue to be plundered and the dams' water catchment areas disappear, the survival of the Seven Forks hydroelectric stations is increasingly uncertain.

Yesterday, Kenya electricity generating company (KenGen) officials said encroachment on land adjacent to the dams and continuous clearing of the vegetation had increased the level of silt and reduced the dams' life span.

Led by environment officer Obed Kariuki and communication officer Justus Waimiri, KenGen officials took journalists on a tour of the dams' buffer zones, where communities have massively destroyed vegetation.

They have cleared more than 1,000 acres of indigenous forest, leaving the ground bare.

They have also cut down more than 15 acres of forest established by KenGen to check soil erosion.

The most affected are the Kamburu and Gitaru dams' buffer zones.

The situation has been worsened by the recent burning of some five acres of exotic forest in the Kyamondia area near Gitaru Dam. Arsonists set the forest on fire, destroying 40,000 trees.

Massive destruction of vegetation cover has also taken place in the Kyuna, Kivaa and Kaira areas near Kamburu Dam.

Mr Kariuki said soil erosion caused the silt that adversely affects power generation machines.

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