UN environment chief pledges help for Kenyan forests and rivers

UN environment chief pledges help for Kenyan forests and rivers

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The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today pledged to help Kenya with environmental and developmental issues facing the new administration in Nairobi.

The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today pledged to help Kenya with environmental and developmental issues facing the new administration in Nairobi.

Among the projects under discussion between UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer and new Environment Minister Newton Kulundu was one aimed at better management of the land and water resources flowing from Mount Kenya.

The multi-million-dollar project, designed to tackle soil erosion polluting the Tana River and clogging up dams and reservoirs, will also back efforts by the Kenyan Government to reduce illegal water removal in the rivers and streams feeding the waterway. The scheme aims to work with local communities and farmers to balance the need for agricultural production with those of wildlife in and around the Mount Kenya area.

The meeting reviewed new, preliminary data on the condition of the Aberdare Mountain range. There has been growing concern that the Aberdares, whose rivers and streams provide Nairobi’s drinking water, are in an even worse environmental condition than Mount Kenya as a result of deforestation and the planting of unsuitable, non-native, trees.

“We expressed our interest in assisting and implementing projects to rehabilitate Kenya’s forests and rivers,” Mr. Toepfer said after the meeting. “Our report on the Aberdares…will outline in great detail the precise problems facing this important natural resource, from the levels of charcoal extraction to the rates of deforestation, and offer concrete proposals as to how the declining situation can be reversed.”

Mr. Toepfer said the project for Mount Kenya, which ranges from schemes to help coffee farmers use water more wisely to initiatives to reduce soil erosion from roads, will be submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington, D.C., for approval at the end of January. The GEF is a multi-billion-dollar fund that invests in projects in developing countries covering issues such as land degradation and protection of the ozone layer.

The meeting also addressed Kenya’s participation in UNEP’s Governing Council. In early February, environment ministers from across the world will come to UNEP headquarters in Nairobi to discuss how best to implement the plan of action drawn up at last year’s Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.