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Debate on eucalyptus tree divides Meru residents

 Eucalyptus trees. [iStockphoto]

Central Imenti MP Moses Kirima  proposal for a total ban on the eucalyptus tree, or blue gum, is causing divisions among Meru residents and stakeholders.

Kirima in a motion in the National Assembly last week is seeking the enactment of a law that would see a total ban on the eucalyptus.

He wants the National Government through the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry to order absolute banning of eucalyptus trees and encourages the planting of indigenous species across the country.

He wants the government to order the uprooting of all eucalyptus trees and replacement with replacement with other varieties of trees, particularly indigenous species to ensure the conservation of water sources and preserve the ecosystem and initiate process of putting in place punitive measures against persons who defy the ban.

Kirima said farming of the eucalyptus trees has been on the rise due to their fast growth, good economic returns and diverse commercial uses such as transmission poles, fuel wood, timber, plywood, pulp, fencing posts and building materials among others.

Eucalyptus trees species are majorly cited as high water depleting agents through high consumption, transpiration and evaporation thus causing the drying up of streams, rivers and depletion of groundwater water sources, he said.

The Meru County Assembly has already passed a motion sponsored by former Maua Ward MCA George Muthuri sought a ban on planting eucalyptus on riparian areas, saying it adversely affected water sources.

 Eucalyptus trees near Lake Ol' Bolossat in Nyandarua County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“Now concerned by the rampant planting of eucalyptus trees in water catchment areas within Meru County; this Honourable Assembly urges the Department of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources within the County Government of Meru to take urgent measures, including policy measures, to curb the planting of eucalyptus trees in water catchment areas within Meru County,” Muthuri had said in a motion unanimously passed by his colleagues.

An MCA swore she will uproot her own large plantation of eucalyptus after understanding the harm it was causing.

Asked yesterday whether she made good her pledge to stop growing the crop the former MCA opted not to answer.

But Kenya Forest Service conservator for Meru Alfred Kurgat is urging residents of the county and across Kenya to seek KFS advice on where and how to plant the blue gum, saying it is a good tree.

“For residents of Meru and Kenya, before you plant blue gum you should come to KFS offices and we will visit your farm or wherever you want to plant it and will advise you accordingly. We have said the blue gum is good but you have to plant it in recommended areas,” Mr Kurgat said.

Kurgat said the call for uprooting the species would be against President William Ruto’s campaign to plant 15 billion trees by 2030.

“That would take us to 30 percent forest cover. You can plant blue gum in rocky areas. It has quick benefits. One acre of blue gum or about 600 trees is able to fetch you more than Sh500, 000. It grows without a lot of tending. If it is planted in areas we recommend it has no harm to environment,” Kurgat said.

Kurgat said the eucalyptus consumes less than water consumed by other trees, including coffee and cypress.

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