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LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

National ecological emergency in Kenya

Reversing the trajectory of ecosystem collapse will not be easy but it can and must be done.

In Summary

• Animal migrations that have been a feature of our landscapes for thousands of years are collapsing.

• Rivers are drying up and fish are dying in our lakes.

Your Excellency,

The United Nations report released this month concluded that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, in many cases within decades.  The interconnected web of life on Earth is disintegrating as a result of human activity, threatening human wellbeing across the world.

Here in Kenya, we are witnessing alarming environmental degradation. Our ecosystems are exposed to a range of threats, including loss of natural habitats due to changes in land use; uncontrolled exploitation of plants, animals and marine resources; climate change; pollution; and invasions of alien species.

 

Animal migrations that have been a feature of our landscapes for thousands of years are collapsing. Rivers are drying up and fish are dying in our lakes. Forests are burning and our magnificent coral reefs are dying. The consequences for humans are also devastating.

Kenya has a proud tradition of innovation in developing solutions for nature conservation, including the ivory burns, the plastic bag ban, and the recent construction of an elevated railway across Nairobi National Park. As a biodiversity superpower and vibrant multi-cultural society, we now have the opportunity to lead the world by our example in pioneering new models for societies that are in harmony with the natural environment.

Farms and pastoral lands are becoming less productive, as devastating droughts are followed by catastrophic floods. More than 2,000 tonnes of solid waste are dumped daily in rivers in the city of Nairobi alone and cancer is rapidly becoming a major cause of sickness and death in the country.

The loss of biodiversity is not just an environmental problem; it is a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well. Our ecosystems are at breaking point. If we let them die we will have no chance of meeting key Sustainable Development Goals for the elimination of poverty and hunger, and achieving our Vision 2030 will become an impossible dream.

Your Excellency, to prevent such a dark future from being realised, we implore you to declare an Ecological Emergency in Kenya as an urgent measure to bring all arms of government together to work jointly with experts from academic institutions, NGOs and the private sector to develop a strategy to avert this looming catastrophe.

Reversing the trajectory of ecosystem collapse will not be easy but it can and must be done if Kenya is to thrive. It will require transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological realms that cannot be achieved by the government alone, but only by all of us working together.

Kenya has a proud tradition of innovation in developing solutions for nature conservation, including the ivory burns, the plastic bag ban, and the recent construction of an elevated railway across Nairobi National Park. As a biodiversity superpower and vibrant multi-cultural society, we now have the opportunity to lead the world by our example in pioneering new models for societies that are in harmony with the natural environment.

Your Excellency, we seek your leadership in spearheading a multi-stakeholder team that will coordinate the nation’s response to this emergency. The team will be tasked with defining goals, with target indicators to track progress, and leading efforts towards achieving them. The goals will include, among others:

  1. Maintaining the integrity of protected areas and saving endangered wildlife species
  2. Sustainable management of plantation forests and pastoral lands
  3. Rationalisation of water abstraction from catchment areas and use of marine natural resources
  4. Habitat restoration
  5. Adoption of renewable energy, sanitation and waste recycling
  6. Compliance with environment law, especially in development projects
  7. Drawing on science and our own rich cultural heritage to empower young people in schools and higher education institutions to become stewards of the natural environment  
 
 

Your Excellency, we represent environmentalists, communities, the tourism sector, businesses, scientists and the youth. Your declaration of a National Ecological Emergency will be a vital first step towards galvanising the urgent action required across all sectors to save our nation’s beloved natural heritage. We look forward to working with you and your team to urgently address this global crisis.

Kind regards,

Paula Kahumbu – WildlifeDirect

Paul Matiku – Nature Kenya

Joseph Ogutu – University of Hohenheim

Salisha Chandra – Lion Guardians

Alan Dixon – Lets Go Travel

Raabia Hawa – Walk with Rangers

Ikal Angelei – Friends of Lake Turkana