Ongwae issues 90 days for locals to cut down eucalyptus along rivers

Kisii's Gesusu Ward Representative Benson Ongeri cuts down eucalyptus trees planted along riparian areas in his ward. Kisii County Governor James Ongwae has urged residents to cut down all eucalyptus tress which are planted 30 meters from rivers and replace them with ingenious seedlings. [Sammy Omingo/Standard]

Kisii County Governor James Ongwae has issued a 90-day notice to commercial eucalyptus tree farmers along rivers to cut them down.

The Eucalyptus forests are believed to be 'wasteful' water users in the area which has affected the ecosystem of the region.

Ongwae said that the decision had been reached after wide consultation among elected leaders from the region including his Nyamira County counterpart John Nyagarama.

“I hereby direct that the County Government of Kisii shall commence the cutting down of Eucalyptus trees planted and demolition of informal settlements erected on wetlands and marsh areas,” read the directive.

Trees planted on riparian areas as stipulated in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 199 laws of Kenya will not be spared either.

According to governor Ongwae, the region is experiencing drying of rivers and springs that were once sources of clean water to thousands of locals.

“This is a firm decision, which must be followed. We could be having issues with climate change but the planting of eucalyptus trees along our major rivers is a concern.” said Ongwae.

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The governor ordered officers in the County Department of Water and Environment to immediately find alternative trees that will be issued to farmers. “Damaged ecosystems remains the major cause of reduced quantity and quality of water available for human consumption.”

Eucalyptus trees, referred locally as ‘Emeringamu’ have drastically rendered most farms unproductive.

Many farmers, disillusioned with tea farming, whose earnings had been dropping, resorted to planting eucalyptus, which fetch good returns when sold as timber and wood to tea factories.

In Kisii and Nyamira counties, concern has been expressed on the effect of Eucalyptus planting on the river banks.

The Kenya Forest service has identified some indigenous trees as an alternative. This include; Croton Macrostachyus (Omosocho) and Markhamia lutea (Omwobo).

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Kisii County GovernorJames OngwaeEucalyptus forests