LSK sues government over logging ban lift

The lawyers' lobby is seeking reinstatement of restrictions imposed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018. [Standard, file]

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has moved to court to challenge President William Ruto's decision to lift the logging ban.

The lawyers' lobby is seeking the reinstatement of the restrictions imposed by the Jubilee government in 2018.

In the case filed by lawyer Gichohi Waweru, LSK accuses the President of contradicting himself, as he had previously acknowledged the negative impact of extensive tree cutting on rainfall when he was Deputy President.

The LSK argues that the President's recent declaration lacked scientific reasoning.

In the case filed before the National Environmental Tribunal (NET), Gichohi stated that the declaration made last week was not backed by any scientific reasoning.

According to LSK, on July 2, 2023, President Ruto announced the lifting of the ban during a speech in Molo, Nakuru County.

In their court documents, LSK claims that the President suggested that people living near forests should engage in logging and selling trees to make a living.

It argued that the announcement by the Head of State followed Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua's statement that the Kenya Kwanza government intended to re-introduce the shamba system, which was banned in 2002.

LSK said that the government did not conduct public participation, adding that logging has already started without a scientific study on the effects of the exercise.

"This reckless action completely disregards the crucial role that forests play in mitigating climate change, preserving biodiversity, and safeguarding vital ecosystems. By allowing logging to resume, the Government is endangering the delicate balance of nature, promoting deforestation, and threatening the livelihoods of countless communities that rely on the forests for their sustenance," said Gichohi.

The tribunal heard that the government's decision to lift the ban on logging in Kenyan forests is a damaging move that puts the short-term economic gain of a small minority ahead of the long-term well-being of the nation's environment and future generations.

Further, Gichohi said that it was ironic for the government to lift the logging ban while Kenya targets to plant 15 billion trees over the next seven years to restore 10.6 million hectares (26.2 million acres) of degraded land and enlarge forest cover to 30 per cent.

The move to plant trees was after the region was hit by its worst drought in four decades last year.

"Previously, the Head of State has been involved in tree planting campaigns that now seem mere political rhetoric as with the recent pronouncements on logging. Forests in the nation's water towers offer environmental benefits such as improved water quality and quantity, lessened soil erosion, and the establishment of microclimates that support or increase productivity," he said.

LSK sued the Attorney General, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Cabinet Secretary, and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

It stated that KFS has lauded the move to fell and harvest at least 5,000 hectares per year to ensure the government profits from the investments in Forest Plantations.

However, the lawyers' lobby asserted that a 2018 task force report, which attributed the harvesting of such, is estimated to lead to an annual reduction in water availability of approximately 62 million cubic meters, translating to an economic loss to the economy of over USD 19 million and has the potential to roll back strides towards the attainment of Vision 2030.

"The destruction of our national forests through unchecked logging, degazettement of areas under Forests, and the re-introduction of the Shamba System has a devastating impact on Kenya's water towers, which are increasingly drying up," said LSK CEO Florence Muturi.