28 April 2005

Kenya: Expert Decries Destruction of Forests By Arsonists

Nairobi — A conservation expert yesterday said people suspected to be those evicted from forests have been setting them on fire.

The attacks were common in Rift Valley and Western provinces, said the acting chief conservator of forests, Mr David Mbugua. The arsonists were frustrating government efforts to grow trees on more than 24,000 hectares of land, he said.

"Some of them are bitter for being evicted from forests and are now trying to defeat afforestation efforts," he said.

"Maintaining and tending trees is expensive and needs manpower," Mr Mbugua told a forest investment forum meeting at a Nairobi hotel yesterday.

It costs Sh40,000 to reforest a hectare of land, he said.

The department was reforesting 8,000 hectares each year and would increase it to 10,000 hectares, said Mr Mbugua.

Environment minister, Kalonzo Musyoka said destruction of forests was a major concern in Government.

He cited the Mau Range as one of the ecosystems needling urgent protection.

"The Government will do everything within its means to ensure the range is protected from destruction," the minister added. Some 30,000 hectares of Mau Forest had been reclaimd from illegal squatters, he said.

PanPaper Mills director Naren Mohata asked the Government to renew their 31-year licence, which expired in 2002.

"The Government needs to give guidance in this area as the forest was excised without being gazetted and title deeds issued," he added.

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