NEMA SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT

Electric fence for Maasai Mau to allow reforestation of water tower

It will protect the areas most severely degraded by settlers who were evicted

In Summary

• The proposed fence is to cover a perimeter of 120 kilometres from Sierra Leone to Olkurto.

• It will protect areas most severely degraded by settlers, agriculture, cattle grazing illegal logging and charcoal burning.   

Maasai Mau Forest.
Maasai Mau Forest.
Image: Gilbert Koech.

An electric fence will be built within the Maasai Mau forest to protect the most degraded areas and allow for rehabilitation and tree planting.

The degraded areas are those from which illegal settlers were evicted. Farming, cattle raising, illegal logging and charcoal burning have damaged the important water tower.

These areas were completely degraded and cannot be restored by natural regeneration, hence, the need to fence off to facilitate tree planting in these areas.
Nema report

The fence is to cover a perimeter of about 120 kilometres from Sierra Leone to Olkurto.

The area to be saved is home to elephants, leopards and giant forest hogs.

"These areas were completely degraded and cannot be restored by natural regeneration, hence, the need to fence off to facilitate tree planting in these areas," the Nema report in the Star's possession says.

The National Environmental Management Agency in a notice has urged the public to submit their comments on the impact of the fence. It has received an environmental impact assessment.

“The Kenya Water Towers Agency proposes to construct an electric fence around the Maasai Mau Forest. The forest block lies within Narok county and is two kilometres to the north of Narok town," Nema says.

The Maasai Mau forest covers 114,355.2519 acres.

Nema says the fence will have five to 10 wires between heavy timber poles to restrain big game, antelope and carnivores. 

The Kenya Water Towers Agency has reported on the impact of the project on air quality, noise and vibration, solid waste, surface water, waste and effluents.

There will be minimal clearance of trees and felling big trees will be avoided as much as possible. The trees on the 'red list' of threatened species will not be touched.

“Use of heavy mechanisation that would severely clear vegetation will be avoided," Nema said in a statement.

Search and rescue will be undertaken each morning for small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates that may have been displaced by the construction.

The restoration of the Mau forest will cost about Sh900 million. It began as soon as illegal settlers were evicted last year.

Out of 42,007.85 acres, 4,942.1 acres were restored through tree planting.

Some Sh16,396,000 had been budgeted for the eviction of the illegal settlers, who have destroyed huge sections of the forest.

The report said the remaining 37,065 acres will be rehabilitated through natural regeneration and enrichment planting.

The area had sufficient vegetation to support the production of seedlings from the existing trees, seedlings, saplings and shrubs.

For this to succeed, all potential seedling sources, their quality and quantity, was mapped and profiled.

For the 4,942 acres the seedling requirement will be 1,250,000.

This will include bamboo to rehabilitate riparian ecosystems and critical catchment areas.

After settlers were evicted, surveys were undertaken to establish beacons necessary for fencing of the tower.

Authorities said the forest is a critically important biodiversity conservation area; home to over diverse flora and fauna species including 393 plants, 132 birds, 49 mammals, 10 reptiles and amphibians and 368 spiders, among others.

It has indigenous tree species threatened by illegal logging and charcoal burning.

The Maasai Mau Forest was the most threatened forest block of the Maasai Mau Complex due to human pressure and destruction.

"The overall goal of the proposed electric fence project is to enhance management, conservation and protection of Maasai Mau Forest (Water Tower) to ensure that it continues to meet the ecological, social, economic and cultural needs of the current and without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs," Kenya Water Tower Agency says.

This design, it said, has been used effectively at Mwea Game Reserve, Mt Elgon, Shimba Hills, Arabuko Sokoke, Marsabit, Tsavo East and Tsavo West and Lake Nakuru national parks.

It said a fence reduces human-wildlife conflicts since it controls large animals.

The fence also keeps away people, cattle, sheep and goats that can destroy planted tree seedlings.

The first phase of the evictions covered 1,772 households totalling 8,860 people They took place from July 6 to July 10 between the Nkoben river north boundary and Kosia.

About 3,000 head of livestock were removed but crops were spared.

Approximately 11,119.725 acres were recovered.

A survey in 2008 of 7,971 households showed that more than 30 per cent had no documents to support their occupation.

Last year, illegal settlers vacated after a 60-day window for them to voluntarily move out lapsed on October 30.

During the second phase, about 22,000 acres were recovered. 

The government seeks to plant about 10 million trees in the water tower.

(Edited by V. Graham)