The Star (Nairobi)

11 February 2013

Kenya: A Quality Environment Key for Sustainable Development

opinion

Kenya is blessed with vast environmental wealth including forests, wildlife and minerals. However, these resources are at risk due to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, environmental degradation, and the expansion of infrastructure and urban development.

Historically, traditional indigenous knowledge systems enabled our people to exploit these resources while sustaining natural ecosystems and processes. Since independence Kenya has undergone phenomenal development largely funded by international donors and investments.

In the past, environmental products and services have been taken for granted, leading to developments to undermine the resources and environmental services on which they rely.

As a result, the country has witnessed accelerated degradation, pollution of air water and soil, and loss of natural capital, particularly forests, savannas, water, wildlife and biodiversity.

This trend threatens agricultural productivity, availability of energy and the health of citizens, leading to deepening poverty, social upheaval, armed conflicts and ultimately economic ruin of companies and families. Poverty has led to the killing of wildlife for money leading to a collapse of populations of Kenya's wildlife.

The natural resources of Kenya must be managed with good governance. Good governance has eight major characteristics--it is participatory; consensus oriented; accountable and transparent; responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.

It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

It is inevitable that the future of African societies require achieving a balance between economic growth and eco-protection to promote sustainable development.

In your party manifesto, you promise Kenyans good governance, development, jobs, education, health and a better quality of life. A clean and secure environment is also imperative essential for achieving the social and economic prosperity that you promise.

The quality of the natural environment underpins everything and environmental issues by their nature are both multi-sectoral and sector specific.

The Environmental Policy of your party needs to recognize that the foundation for development is environment quality and that sustainable development can only be achieved through good governance.

We suggest that you to recognize three principles in your party manifesto

The economic development and human well-being depends on the quality of the natural environment.

All economic activities are taking place within a larger envelope, the natural environment.

Environmental products and services are vital to sustain future economic development

In making good governance of environmental resources a foundation for development, your campaign will be aligned with the provisions of the Kenya Constitution which states '"sustainable exploitation, utilization, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources and guarantees a healthy and protected environment as a right of all citizens in present and future generations."

Moreover, we urge you to fully recognize and Kenya's international commitments to sustainable development. At the RIO+20 Conference in June 2012 Kenya signed onto the outcome document "The Future We Want", in which investing in the environment was highlighted as an effective approach to address the most pressing issues on the global agenda, including climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity.

To realize your objectives we urge you to enshrine the key tenets of the green economy in your manifesto. This will include recognition of the dependencies of human well-being on the environment, and the setting as priority to invest in the "natural infrastructure".

The green economy aims to improve human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. This commitment includes activities that reduce or adapt to climate change, natural resource depletion, and loss of bio-diversity and ecosystem services. Investing in the "nature infrastructure

We propose that you adopt the following principles and commitments in your party manifesto.

1. Ensuring sustainability of projects and programmes by investing in the protection of the natural infrastructure upon which they depend. This includes the protection of forests especially water towers, lakes, wetlands, coastlines, major habitats and ecosystems on which Kenya's energy, food production and environmental services depend.

2. Recognize the economic, social, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic value of Kenya's vast natural and cultural heritage (wildlife, landscapes and ecosystems) by securing the future of existing parks and reserves as national protected areas into perpetuity.

3. Develop policies that promote investment in 'green economy'.

4. Supporting innovative approaches being undertaken by community and private sector efforts at securing more land for wildlife and conservation of natural infrastructure through

5. Ensuring all state interests in industry and infrastructure abide by Kenya's national and international environmental commitments.

6. Ensuring that industries or practices that degrade the natural capital of Kenya are penalized to enforce the "polluter pays" principle. This includes vetting of environmental implications of all investors and projects, and regular environmental audits.

7. Introducing policies that support, promote, recognize and reward innovative private sector environmental initiatives eg. Conservancies, alternative energy, good water management

8. Ensuring environmental literacy of the population by creating and supporting environmental education at all levels of society.

9. Ensure that Kenya's meets her international commitments to sustainable development.

10. Ensure that the importance of the Ministry of Environment, Heritage, Water, Forestry and Wildlife and their authorities are adequately appropriately organized and resourced to provide the supported needed to rehabilitate, secure and sustain productivity of our natural capital.

Dr Paula Kahumbu is the CEO of WildlifeDirect.

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