The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Mr Keriako Tobiko has raised an alarm that the climate of the country has changed, the weather has become unpredictable, droughts have become longer, rivers have dried up and water levels in dams are fast dwindling. There is a looming water crisis in the country. He further said that the seas are heating up and water towers are have degraded to bare hills. Even the coveted Mt Kenya and Aberdare Ranges have been seriously degraded.
In his tough speech delivered during the inauguration of the new Kenya Water Towers Agency Board of Directors, Mr Tobiko reiterated that there cannot be development when everything including the air is polluted. Corruption, politics and utter impunity are some of the causes that the CS cited as the leading challenges in conservation efforts. “Environment doesn’t ask whether you are a Maasai, Kalenjin, Luo or Kikuyu. Let’s leave tribalism aside and embark on saving our environment,’ CS Tobiko said.
Kenya Water Towers Agency was created to restore the Mau Water Tower, the CS said. He directed the new Board of Directors to focus on addressing the Mau challenges before moving to other areas. Mau Water Tower is a major source of water for the Mara River which is the livelihood source for the wild animals in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The river drains to Lake Victoria where the longest river in Africa and arguably in the world, River Nile, emanates. The river is one of the major source of water for the people of Egypt. Five taskforces have been set up in the past to look into Mau conservation and all of them unanimously recommended evictions of illegal settlers, the CS added. In the recent phase one evictions, 13,000 acres were recovered.
The Maasai elders who extended group ranges from the initial 7,000 hectares to 17,000 hectares and sold them out to the current settlers will also be apprehended. The CS said he has written to the DCI and DPP to investigate and bring them to book. Through the Joint Enforcement Unit (JEU), the Agency should play a key role in the upcoming evictions. He asked the Ag. Director General Prof. Julius Tanui to prepare to move into Mau. “We are moving into Mau; I am leading from the front. The President, the members of parliament, myself, the whole government and the public expect a lot from this Agency and you have my support,” the CS emphasized.
On whether the existence of the Agency is debatable, the CS was very categorical that Kenya Water Towers Agency was created by the former President in 2012 to coordinate and oversee the conservation of critical water towers in the country. One of them and the most important is the Mau Forest Complex. He said that the mandate and role of the Agency is well cut out and any debate on its existence should never be entertained.
“To increase the forest cover from the current 7.2% to the constitutional minimum of 10% by 2022, we should get serious. We need a total of 1.8 billion seedlings that translates to 600 million seedlings every year for the remaining three years,” CS Tobiko said. It is the time to focus on the Big Four Action by aligning our strategic plans accordingly. Water towers are in counties outside Nairobi and the Agency should forge a working relationship with the counties, the CS said. “The Agency should put more effort in the grassroots where the water towers are, the headquarters in Nairob is a centre for coordinating activities in the ground,” CS Tobiko told the new Directors.
The performance of the Agency according to the CS will not be measured on the reports published but actions that transform lives. He commended the Ag. Director General Prof Tanui for lobbying for additional resources from the National Treasury but added that these resources are not enough and the Agency should focus on mobilizing external resources from the donor community and other development partners by developing a good resource mobilization strategy. He concluded by saying that the communication of the Agency should be active telling success stories by working closely with the media fraternity.
The new Board Directors are Dr Julius Malombe (Chairman), Ms Hibo Bishar, Ms Wambui Muriithi, Mr Robert Mutuma, Mr Timothy Ole Naeku and Ms Wandia Maina. Others representing ministries are Mr Peter Leitoro- Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Ms Edna Atisa- CS National Treasury, Esther Wangombe- Ministry of Energy and Mr Bernard Mulwa- Ministry of Water and Sanitation. The CS congratulated them for the good job they have done since they were appointed in May 2019.