•I informed the country that we had acted that way for a long time resulting in unpredictable weather patterns including drought and floods.
•Conservationists are now worried, and we all should be. Forest fires have in the past few days destroyed 16,000 acres of moorland in Mt Kenya.
On March 12, 2012, I joined President Mwai Kibaki in unveiling a plaque to mark the commissioning of the Rhino Ark Aberdare Fence at Bondeni, Aberdares National Park.
At the time the president and I reiterated the government’s commitment to conserve and manage all water towers.
At the time I warned that the country could not continue with the hear, see and do-nothing attitude on matters related to conservation. I informed the country that we had acted that way for a long time resulting in unpredictable weather patterns including drought and floods.
Conservationists are now worried, and we all should be. Forest fires have in the past few days destroyed 16,000 acres of moorland in Mt Kenya.
Erratic weather conditions have only served to further fan the flames of destruction with the Kenya Meteorological Department warning that Kenya’s forests, parks and national reserves are increasingly at risk owing to the ongoing drought in the country.
The thirty- three years of conservation in the Aberdares is now at risk; threatening the forest cover that had by 2011 increased by an impressive 20.6% in a span of five years, and a 54% decrease in open grassland and cultivation inside the fenced 2000 km2 Aberdare conservation area; these developments should worry us all.
We did it for Mau, we can for the Aberdares
In an effort to address the degradation of the Mau Forests Complex I appointed a Prime Minister’s taskforce whose recommendations informed painful but necessary measures aimed at protecting the Mau Complex water tower.
Over the decades the Mau Forests Complex had lost over 107,000 hectares representing approx. 25 per cent of its forest cover in the wake of encroachment, ill planned and irregular settlements, among others. Encroachment alone had seen the destruction of approximately 46,122 hectares of indigenous forest. This critical water tower is now on a steady recovery path even if challenges remain.
Such is the single-minded determination, that will save the Aberdares.
In May 2012, jointly with a number of conservationists, I was honored to unveil the Aberdare Fence Management Trust to consolidate the conservation of the forest.
The frequent fires consuming this precious and expensively protected heritage are therefore deeply disturbing.While I appreciate efforts by various agencies to contain the fire currently consuming the forest, I appeal to all concerned bodies to find a lasting solution to the menace in addition to creating a standby rapid response force that can contain such fires within hours instead of days.At a time the country is grappling with the impacts of Climate Change, Kenya can’t afford to lose an inch of ages old forest to these frequent fires.
My government plans to among other measures, undertake the following interventions to prevent forest fires namely;
Establish a fully equipped and resourced Rapid National Forest Fire Agency to combat fires by employing new methods such as a. Tactical air attack planes to coordinate aerial firefighting using suppression chemicals and smokejumpers
Push for the enactment of a fire prevention and control act
Promote the planting of fire-resistant plants and trees around areas in the forest that are prone to fires.
Encourage the Kenya Forest Service to train members of the community through the existing forest associations to help in surveillance across major forests.