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Environmentalists label biofuel project ecological disaster

By | July 7th 2010

By Ally Jamah

Environmentalists want Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Environment Minister John Michuki to put brakes on a multimillion-shilling bio-diesel project in Malindi.

Speaking in a Press conference in Nairobi yesterday, leaders of Nature Kenya, East Africa Wildlife Society and Bird Life International, termed the project "a disaster" that will see 50,000 hectares of indigenous woodlands wiped out.

"Our forest cover is already dangerously low and we cannot afford to clear more forests for projects that have no guaranteed benefits," they said.

Italian-owned Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd seeks to hive off 50,000 acres of Dakatcha Woodlands in Malindi to grow Jatropha Curcas, a plant that produces environmental-friendly biofuel. Most of the Jatropha oil to be produced is to be shipped to Europe, where demand for biofuels is high.

"The woodland is a critical water catchment area and a wildlife sanctuary that deserves maximum protection from the government," said Deputy Director of the East African Wildlife Society Michael Gachanja.

The Malindi County Council has approved the project, which also enjoys the support of Magarini MP Amason Kingi. They say the project will create jobs for the local community.

"Jatropha Oil can add value to Kenya, but it should not be produced by destroying forests. That would not make much sense," warned Isaac Kalua, Chairman of the Biodiesel Association of Kenya.

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