Kenya: Environment Concerns Dominate Conference

Nairobi — Environmental degradation has remained a major issue at the World Social Forum conference at Nairobi's Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The delegates took issue with the alarming rate of deforestation, the increasing production of industrial waste and the indiscriminate exploitation of mineral resources mainly in developing countries.

Delegates from India cited the case of Tamil Nadu, saying it previously had many rivers, vegetation and forests. "The increasing urbanisation exploitation by private and public sectors and the new globalisation policies have led to the damage of the ecological system," said an official of Tamil Nadu Environment Council.

The delegates complained that industries have continued cropping up, thus leading to wanton destruction of the environment. They said rivers, vegetation, sands and the freshness of the air have all been destroyed, thus causing a drastic change in the environment.

Local delegates blamed environmental degradation on rampant corruption and lack of commitment from the Government. They said the National Environmental Management Authority has been issuing threats without coming up with tangible environmental management measures to stop industries from polluting the eco-system.

The delegates also linked the problem of environmental degradation to the long-standing problem of land grabbing. "The land grabbers don't even discriminate. We have thus ended up with a situation where forest reserves are being grabbed like in the famous case of Karura forest," said Victor Bwire of the Independent Medical Legal Unit, a human rights NGO.

But the Global Forest Coalition, in a detailed write-up to the delegates, raised concerns about the effect of biomass on human life, especially those being produced in commercial volumes. The Network says the world should suspend subsidies and other forms of support for the import and export of bio-fuels.

"International trade in bio-fuels is already causing negative impact on food security, rural livelihoods, forests and other ecosystems. And its negative impacts are expected to accumulate rapidly. Large-scale export oriented production of bio-fuel requires large-scale monocultures of trees, corn, oil palm, soy and crops," said the Network.

They said the bio-fuels have been the cause of a number of rural depopulation and deforestation worldwide. This, they say, will augment the much feared global warming that the world has been struggling to deal with.

They applauded the move by Prof Wanagari Maathai to plant at least a billion trees in a period of 10 years, saying this would go a long way in reducing the impact of environmental degradation on lives

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