- Common sense has it that this critical resource should be kept for its invaluable ecosystem services.
- Yala Swamp is a precious natural asset. It must be conserved and sustainably utilised for the prosperity of communities.
Dear Mr President,
The National Land Commission, in its Yala Swamp allocation determination, subverts the interest of the local people in Yala instead of protecting community interests as required by the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
The Constitution recognises the NLC as the administrator of land held by county governments in trust for resident communities. But in Yala, the NLC has decided to retire community rights and turn community land into private land by allocating a private company 6,763.74 ha (16713.6 acres) for its use.
Local community voices did not matter. In all manner of community-organised groups, they objected to the land allocation. NLC commissioners, led by their chairman, decided to stage-manage the process to ensure that the land was allocated for 66 years to Lake Agro Limited to grow sugar cane.
For 66 years, communities in Yala will be as poor as those in Mumias. Cane cutters are paid slave labour. Tourism is now forgotten in this tourist hotspot. Carbon sequestered by the Yala Swamp is gone completely.
Lake Victoria waters will be polluted as the water filtration services provided by the wetland have disappeared courtesy of the NLC's decision to subvert the interests of the local communities and the wishes of the global community. Now floods will rampage and drought will hit harder.
Why does this wetland occur here?
The NLC seems totally ignorant of science. A swamp forms because of a natural process of sediment deposition, which slows the rate at which water enters the main water body—Lake Victoria.
Clearing of the papyrus will lead to the free flow of chemicals and sediments into Lake Victoria, immediately killing fish, the fish-related economy and food supplies. Then the wetland will dry up and join the rest of the surrounding dry areas.
Common sense has it that this critical resource should be kept for its invaluable ecosystem services. The NLC, however, does not see it that way. All it sees is sugar from sugar cane. It sees cane cutting as employment. it ignores fish as food. It ignores Lake Victoria's fish-based economy. The NLC does not see tourism. It does not see biodiversity. It does not see carbon sequestration.
Mr President, the people of Yala call upon you to avert the destruction of their wetland. Yala Swamp is a precious natural asset. As such, Yala Swamp must be conserved and sustainably utilised for the prosperity of communities and biodiversity and not serve the interests of self-centred entities.
Executive director, Nature Kenya - the EANHS. [email protected]