2 July 2005

Tanzania: Effects of Mau Forest Damage 'Being Felt in Tanzania'

Nairobi — Cabinet Minister William Ntimama yesterday said the impact of destruction in the Mau forest was causing discomfort in Tanzania.

Speaking at a tourism function on Thursday night, he said the wife of Tanzania's former president Julius Nyerere had sought his intervention to prevent the Mara River from drying up.

"Talk to the Kenyan authorities. The River Mara is almost drying up," she reportedly told Ntimama.

The river flows through Butyama, Nyerere's birthplace. He said a few people could not sacrifice the Mau complex, which supports 15 million people.

Ntimama said the squatters must move " despite pressure from politics and certain complaints."

He said the Mau forest was the biggest water tower in East and Central Africa.

"From the complex, 12 rivers flow into lake Nakuru, Victoria, Baringo and Natron in Tanzania," he said.

Should the Mau Forest get destroyed, the impact would be serious and would affect tourism.

"These are some things ordinary people don't know. Flamingoes are running away to Lake Natron because Lake Nakuru has become shallow and muddy," he said.

He said in the Mara, crocodiles and hippos could not submerge because the water was too shallow.

Late last month, the Government evicted 10,000 squatters from the 'Sierra Leon' camp in the 400,000-hectare Mau Forest.

Ntimama was speaking at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, where Tourism Minister Morris Dzoro launched a tourism handbook for Kenya.

Meanwhile, Baringo Central MP Gideon Moi has said the eviction of families from Mau Forest was unfair because it appeared to target a particular community.

Moi accused the Government of gross human rights violations and challenged President Kibaki to declare his stand on the evictions.

The Kanu MP said the evictions had nothing to do with protection of forests but a wide scheme to impoverish a certain community.

Speaking at a meeting at Mochongoi Division in his constituency, the MP urged the Government to stop the evictions.

The meeting was convened a day after Lands ministers Amos Kimunya said the next phase of evictions will be in Marmanet, which lies in both Laikipia and Baringo districts.

Mr Moi wondered why the Government was evicting members of one community and leaving others in former forests in various parts of the country.

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