By Peter Orengo

Environment Minister John Michuki has asked Kenya Forest Services to start evicting squatters from the Mau Forest, saying it was a matter of urgency.

Speaking when he officiated the launch of National Climate Change Strategy yesterday, Mr Michuki contradicted the PM Raila Odinga and Rift Valley leaders who on Tuesday suggested that those who got land illegally and those who have title deeds be compensated.

Michuki said KFS was now well funded and had the capacity to make sure no further forest encroachment went on in Kenya’s major water catchments.

"I know people who deserve compensation are 1,962 families. Anyone else does not deserve even a single shilling," The Minister said, asking politicians to keep politics out of the Government-planned eviction.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister and 22 Rift Valley MPs met and reached a deal on payment of all settlers in Mau, regardless of how they acquired the land.

It is estimated that Mau complex ecosystem supports about 40 per cent of the country’s population. Michuki says the Mau issue is wider and more complex than the about 10,000 people occupying land in the forest.

The over exploitation of Mau Forest complex has made low-lying areas very vulnerable to both climate change and variability.

The forest complex is the source of rivers Mara, Nyando and Sondu. River Mara supports the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and hence is key to the survival of wildlife in the resort and the neighbouring Serengeti National park in Tanzania.

Fast Shrinking

Along the Sondu River lies the Sondu Miriu Hydropower complex that is expected to contribute about 60mw to the national grid once completed.

The Njoro River, which rises in the Mau, provides water to Lake Nakuru, another world famous tourist destination.

Lake Nakuru is fast shrinking and its catchment is gradually being dominated by scrubland. Other rivers whose source is Mau Forest include, Kipchorian, Kiptarei, Timbilil, Sausa, Jamji, Chemosit and Kipteget.