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Karura Forest is safe, but we will put up 200 hotels for tourists, Kenya Forest Service says

KENYA
By Graham Kajilwa | March 14th 2016

There is no new license issued to a developer to establish a resort centre in Karura Forest, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has affirmed.

Speaking yesterday at the inauguration of the new KFS Chairman Peter Kinyua, KFS Director Emilio Mugo said that the news doing rounds that the forest has been grabbed are emanating from a report of 2009.

He said that as at the moment, there is no license that has been given to establish any facility at the Sigiria Block of Karura forest as claimed.

An environmental group, the Green Belt Movement associated with the late Prof Wangari Mathai had earlier raised fears that that a developer had been allowed to establish a resort at the 25 acre Sigiria Block.

It went ahead to demand documentation and official of all property rights to the 1,050 acres forest land.

"Those were proposals of seven years ago that are not active. Someone must have stumbled on documents inquiring the fate of the project from the said developer," said Mugo.

However, at the same time, Mugo announced that about 200 sites have been marked by the service to establish eco-tourism facilities across all forests in the country.

"As KFS we have an eco-tourism platform where we approach developers to establish restaurants and other recreational facilities in the area. This is not encroachment but development," explained Mugo.

Some of these facilities include areas for camping, jogging or cycling: "Thompson Falls in Laikipia County will be pioneering these projects."

In 2014, the Green Belt had noted that KFS and FKF signed an agreement for the establishment of an administrative office for the Karura Forest officers to be located at the gate, a visitor's information centre and a café.

Questions have however been raised about the presence of River Café in the forest.

Prof Maathai in the 1990's did put up a spirited fight against the government of retired President Moi, which had proposed to build a tower in the same forest.

Later in the decade, the Moi administration banned the allocation of public land to developers in the forest.

"We shall continue upholding the forest act of 2005 that outlaws any manner of encroachment," said Mugo.

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