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Contain fires before Kenya loses coveted forest cover

EDITORIAL
By | March 21st 2012

New government statistics indicate that forest cover has tripled from 1.7 per cent to 5.9 per cent in the last decade.

This is tremendous growth considering the fact that the natural resource was facing extinction due to massive destruction few years ago.

But ongoing forest fires are threatening these gains and the quest to attain United Nation’s recommended ten per cent cover.

Fire has erupted in Mt Kenya Forest, Aberdare National Park, and parts of Isiolo County, where thousands of acres of vegetation has been destroyed.

In the Mt Kenya Forest, a vital natural resource, it is reported the fire has covered over 800 hectares and has consumed bamboo trees worth about Sh8 billion.

This is besides loss of other vegetation cover, destruction of water catchment areas, and displacement of wild animals.

A similar situation is at Aberdares National Park, where fire has been raging for the past five days and has consumed over 500 hectares of forest cover.

The natural resource is an important water tower that supplies Nairobi with more than 80 per cent of its water and supports immensely production of hydropower and agriculture.

The tragedy about the fires, which are being fanned by strong winds, is that they have been burning the forests for a couple of days and no solution is in sight yet.

Find the saboteurs

Perhaps this mirrors our level of preparedness in dealing with such calamities, which sadly are not happening for the first time.

It is not difficult to speculate what will happen if the fires are not contained in the next days.

But this is not the time to apportion blame on anyone or talk about how concerned institutions are ill equipped to deal with disasters.

Urgent action is needed to stop the fires before Kenya loses sizeable hectares of forest cover that is working hard to restore.

Additionally, police and other security organs must move first to probe the cause of the fires. Forest officials have blamed arsonists. These are claims that cannot be wished away. The saboteurs must be found and made to pay for their crimes.

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