Forest group wants alternative site for proposed sugar factory

CS Keriako Tobiko whose Environment Ministry has opposed use of Nyangweta forest land for sugar factory in Kisii County (PHOTO: FILE)
NAIROBI, KENYA: Kisii County has run into a nother challenge with a forest group questioning wisdom behind selection of a site for the proposed sugar factory.

Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG), a sub-committee of the East Africa Wildlife Society said the project is likely to interfere with the environment if allowed to be built within the Nyangweta Forest.

KFWG Coordinator Jackson Bambo warns that if allowed, the project will cause serious environmental degradation, leading to a cycle of poverty as over 400 hectares is required to cover the sugar factory facilities and a nucleus sugarcane plantation.

“We are not opposed to any development geared towards supporting the communities living in Kisii County. The group is opposite to the proposed site where the proposed Sugar Factory will be located.  The site is still gazetted and is composed of some pine, cypress, eucalyptus and few indigenous species again it has been Proposed among the newly created water towers by Kenya Water Towers Agency due to its importance as a catchment area of River Gucha,” said Mr Bambo.

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The coordinator also raised issue with issuance of environmental impact assessment by the National Environment Management Authority alleging it was irregular and did not follow the due process.

He said project documents such as feasibility study report are not in the public domain.

The total forest cover in Kisii County is approximated to be 228.4 hectares. Nyangweta covers 104 hectares (almost half the county’s cover).  With this in mind, if Kisii County Government is allowed to proceed with this proposed sugar factory within Nyangweta Forest (trust land under the auspices of the Kisii County Government), it will lead to serious environmental degradation, leading to a cycle of poverty as over 400 hectares is required to cover the sugar factory facilities and a nucleus sugarcane plantation.

Of concern to KFWG is not not only negative impacts on soil fertility, but also cause of permanent damage to forests, which most communities depend on for water, subsistence food, building materials and natural medicine.

“We recommend that the Ministry of Environment and Forests urgently get a conservatory order from the High Court to alter the proposed sugar factory,” he said.

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“If the project is deemed highly viable, the Kisii CG should look for alternative land. That way, Kisii County will be in the right direction of contributing to the Vision 2030, Big four (4) Agenda, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

The planned development of Sh5 billion sugar factory has also been opposed by top government officials with CS Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Keriako Tobiko saying he has
serious reservations about the planned excision of 120 acres of forest land for the project.

Speaking in April when he appeared before a Senate Committee his office was uncomfortable with approving the request to hive off the land unless concerns raised were addressed.

Among the concerns, Mr Tobiko told legislators, was the forest cover in Kisii County, which has one of the lowest in the country at 2.6 per cent against the legally required cover of 10 per cent.
The CS argued that hiving off land from Nyangweta Forest to develop the Sh5 billion factory would further deplete the forest cover.

EnvironmentKeriako TobikoKFWG