The Kenyan Green Thinking Action Party opposes the idea of repealing a section of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. The National Assembly’s Committee on Procedure and Rules wants to revise the legislation which currently gives authority to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) over changes to the boundaries and areas of state forests.
According to the Green Party, if such a bill were to pass, it would expose public forests to arbitrary boundary changes and excisions. At which point private companies could have a large sway over forest authority. Private interests would degrade the forests and negatively affect the watersheds. This law would allow anyone to request a modification of the boundaries from the Clerk of the National Assembly. For environmental activists it is concerning allowing politicians to determine whether public forests can be cut down and handed over to private interests.
“Removing the Kenya Forest Service from decisions on forest boundaries is misguided, untimely and will expose Kenya’s forests to greedy individuals whose actions could damage water catchments, hydropower, food and therefore the well- human being and economic development of Kenya,” said Nature Kenya , an apolitical organization that promotes nature conservation in East Africa.
The current law protects forests which are home to rare, threatened or endangered species. It states that a tree line can only be changed based on consultations with stakeholders, an environmental impact assessment report and recommendations to Parliament by the Kenya Forest Service. But the proposed amendment seeks to remove all powers from the Kenya Forest Service.
“If this happens, critical ecological services and economic activities that rely on water will suffer a severe blow,” GTAP chief Isaac Kalua Green said in a statement.
According to Reuters, supporters of the amendment have, reassured that this modification of the law would protect against evictions and only support those with legitimate claims on disputed land. Examples include families who have saved to buy a house in good faith. A parliamentarian even called on the government to take action to protect innocent homeowners.
Kenya’s Green Party Chairman fears that with the repeal of Section 34(2A) of the 2016 Act, the country may return to a time when public forest lands were subject to political whims. For Dr. Kalua, passing the section will undo recent forest protection progress made over the past 15 years in restoring public forests and our water catchment areas.
He showed that disempowering the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will be detrimental to forest conservation efforts in Kenya and encourage deforestation.
Conservationists unanimously criticized the move, which Nature Kenya says “undermines forest protection, depriving Kenyans of access to forest goods and services essential to their survival.” This environmental body has urgently urged Kenyans to SAY NO to this amendment bill.