16 February 2013

Kenya: Judge Stops State From Harvesting Nandi Forests

The High Court in Eldoret has ordered the government to stop harvesting forests in Nandi County. The order follows a suit filed by environmentalists who are opposed to the destruction of the forests.

Justice Silas Munyao of the Environment and Land Court issued an injunction against the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to stop the ongoing massive harvesting of trees at Kimondi and Nandi North forests.

The injunction followed an application filed by lawyer Elizabeth Rotich acting on behalf of Friends of Nandi Environment (Fone) and the Chairman, John Kipkorir Chumo.

Rotich tabled photographic evidence before the judge to prove that KFS had allowed saw millers to carry out extensive felling of trees in the forests without following official procedure or consulting local communities as required by law.

The director of KFS and Nandi County Forest Co-ordinator have been sued in the case for allowing the destruction of forests.

"The defendants or their agents are hereby restrained by way of injunction from cutting, harvesting or removing any cut trees from Kimondi and Nandi North forests until further orders of this court," read the order issued by the judge.

Rotich argued that the larger community in Nandi County stood to suffer irreparable damage if trees harvesting was not stopped.

KFS is accused of illegally allocating pre-qualified and unqualified saw millers to harvest timber and firewood materials in Nandi County.

"The laid down procedure as per the Forests Participation in Sustainable Forest Management Rules 2009 and the Forest Act Cap 2005 were not followed in the process,"said part of Chumo's affidavit that was filed in court.

Chumo argues that saw millers are harvesting trees without considering the impact of destroying the environment.He said KFS had this month allowed saw millers to harvest trees in the forests against protests from Fone and area residents.

"The community is in charge of maintaining the forests and is supposed to share proceeds of the forest but they have been left out in contravention of procedure,"said Chumo in the suit.

The judge ordered the matter to be heard on February 27 after Rotich applied to have the matter heard urgently.

The environmentalists have questioned why KFS is in a hurry to allow the county residents destroy the forests at a time when the country is focused on elections. An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was also not done as required by law, the environmentalists argue.

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