5 April 2006

Kenya: Evictions Will Go On to Save Forests, Says Top Official

Nairobi — The Government will continue to reclaim forest land allocated to individuals illegally, a permanent secretary announced yesterday.

If destruction of forests is not halted, the country could be without any in the next five years, said Environment PS George Krhoda.

The land under forest cover had reduced from 3.2 to 1.7 per cent of the total land mass in less than 10 years, which is far below the international standard of 10 per cent.

Speaking to the Press in Nairobi, Prof Krhoda said: "If the land was dished out without degazettement, then it lawfully remains the property of the Government and we shall reclaim it."

Kenya's major forests, especially the Mau complex, Aberdare, Mt Kenya, Kakamega and Cherang'any have continued to be destroyed, making the loss one of the worst in the world.

But attempts by the Government to evict illegal settlers accused of destroying the forests have been met with protests from MPs and human rights groups.

On the 3,000 squatters who were evicted from Kipkurere forest, Prof Krhoda said quit notices had been issued in advance. Some had been posted on notice boards at the district commissioner's office.

"Evictions are organised and planned in advance and always involve the ministries of Environment, Lands and Internal Security," Prof Krhoda said.

The PS said time had come for radical reforms in the management of forests to save the remaining cover. He spoke at the ministry's headquarters after launching a 17-member forest steering committee to formulate a policy and regulations for the planned reforms in forestry.

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