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ELECTION 2022

Concerted efforts needed to stop degradation of the environment

COMMENTARY
By Alexander Chagema | Jun 5th 2020 | 2 min read

According to a World Health Organisation report, 800 people die hourly from inhaling polluted air.

According to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Management 2019, the annual global death rate from air pollution stood at 6.5 million. An estimated four million of the deaths occurred in the Asia-Pacific region.

Factors that lead to environmental pollution were identified as water and soil pollution, marine and coastal pollution, chemicals in industrial products and poor waste disposal.

As we mark the World Environmental Day today, can we positively state that we have made progress towards environmental protection in the past one year? In Kenya, the biggest contributor to environmental degradation has been the destruction of trees and forests that have resulted in reduced forest cover.

Our estimated forest cover is a paltry six per cent, way below the recommended 10 per cent of the total land area. There have been efforts to improve our forest cover, but illegal logging and encroachment on forests have always clawed back any gains made towards increasing the forest cover. Between 2001 and 2014, for instance, 30,000 square kilometres of tree cover were lost.

As a consequence of our uncaring attitude, nature has exacted its revenge in changes in weather patterns and erratic rainfall that put the country between two extremes; raging floods when it rains and extreme drought, both of which result in deaths, displacement and food insecurity.

Rivers and streams that have sustained life for centuries are drying up because of the destruction of forests. At least 107,000 hectares of forest, which is equivalent to 25 per cent of the Mau forest, Kenya’s largest water catchment area, have been destroyed in the past 20 years

Besides this, lack of proper waste disposal has resulted in a number of factories discharging effluent into rivers that sometime end up in bigger water bodies such as Lake Victoria at a great cost to marine life. When fish ingest chemicals and people feed on the fish, the chances of people contracting cancers, which we are ill-equipped to deal with as a country, increase.

To conserve our environment, State institutions such as the National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya Forest Services and Kenya Wildlife Services must be seen to play their part in conserving the environment. On its part, the government should step up efforts to get encroachers out of forests and maintain the ban on logging.

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