NAIROBI, Jan 19 – The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) has noted with delight a decision by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to block plans to construct a dam along Kipsonoi River within the South-West Mau Forest in Bomet County.

“KFS is currently enforcing government policy that disallowed dam construction inside gazetted forests,” said Emilio Mugo, the Chief Conservator of Forests, in a circular quoted by the local media.

EAWLS had on many occasions in the recent past spoken out strongly against the proposed Bosto Dam inside the forest.

“We commend this principled stand by KFS and encourage the Service, the sole government agency mandated to protect the country’s forests, not to relent,” said Julius Kamau, EAWLS Executive Director. “A dam inside the already threatened forest, which is also a biodiversity hotspot, would be catastrophic for the ecosystem.”

On October 5 last year, Mr. Kamau and the umbrella Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) told reporters that the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) had on 26 September issued a licence authorising the construction of the dam.

“This is despite EAWLS and KFWG joint submission of comments to NEMA strongly objecting to the proposed location of the dam inside South-West Mau Forest Reserve and further requesting NEMA to kindly reject the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) study report due to its various inadequacies,” Mr. Kamau said at the time. The dam was proposed by the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation.

EAWLS and KFWG pointed out some misleading assertions in the EIA report.

“For instance the report states that the three dam location alternatives are 18km, 12km and 3km from the edge of the forest respectively while the true position based on the coordinates and our field fact finding mission is that the three proposed dam sites are located inside the forest,” said Mr. Kamau.

“It’s our position […] that the proponent of this development did not explore all the possible options including an outside the forest option that would ensure that we bring about the so much needed development without compromising environmental integrity.”

He stressed that the EIA study report was inaccurate, erroneous, and subjective and therefore NEMA could not rely on it make an objective decision on whether or not to issue an EIA licence.

EAWLS’ advocacy against the dam project prompted a meeting between Mr. Kamau and the Mr. Mugo.

The Society had also written to the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources seeking clarification on the Bosto Dam construction issue.