NAIROBI, Jan 17 (Swara) – The East African Wild Life Society today voiced grave concern over an attempt by the rules committee of the Kenyan parliament to repeal a section of the forest conservation and management law that ensures than forest boundaries are not altered without due regard for the established procedure.

Section 34(2) was inserted into Kenya’s Forest Conservation and Management Act (2016) to guard against forest boundary variation and excisions that would lead to deforestation, destruction of water catchment areas and the decimation of biodiversity.

“The passing of this amendment would mean that the country will lose its forest cover through dubious variation of boundaries and excision of forests thus wiping out gains made over decades to restore forest cover,” said Nancy Ogonje, Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society, in a press release.

Deletion of the section 34(2) of the Act would make it easy for members of parliament to “alter boundaries without public consultation, environmental impact assessment and the authority given to the Kenya Forest Service to provide technical input in such processes,” added Ms Ogonje.

She urged the public to stand up for conservation and speak out against attempts water down the legal protection of forests. “EAWLS also calls upon parliament to withdraw the proposed amendment,” said Ms Ogonje.

The Kenyan Forest Service also expressed its opposition to the intended amendment, saying it would erode gains made in forest conservation over the past 15 years.

“Removing this section will reverse gains made over the past 15 years in restoring our public forests, compromise the protection of these forests and thus deny Kenyans access to forest goods and services,” said Peter Kinyua, Chairman, Kenya Forest Service Board, in a statement.

He said section 34(2) was deliberately added to the forest conservation and management law to stem the wanton destruction of Kenyan forests witnessed in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Kenya’s forest cover is estimated to be about 7.4 per cent of the country’s total land area, which is a far from the recommended global minimum of 10 per cent. Several initiatives, including an a tree growing programme spearheaded by the East African Wild Life Society, are underway to ensure that Kenya attains 10 per cent forest cover by 2030.