Kenya lifts six-year ban on logging amid outcry from environmentalists-Xinhua

Kenya lifts six-year ban on logging amid outcry from environmentalists

Source: Xinhua| 2023-07-04 01:05:45|Editor: huaxia

NAIROBI, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Kenya has defended a move to lift a six-year embargo on logging in national forests despite the concerns of environmental campaigners.

Communities adjacent to the forests would benefit greatly from the planned harvesting of trees, which has raised concerns among environmentalists as it comes at a time the country is facing the worst effects of climate change, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) said in a statement released Monday in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

President William Ruto on Sunday announced the lifting of the ban on logging, noting that there was a need to economically open up areas that depend on forests.

Ruto said the government had put in place measures to ensure that only mature trees are harvested while more are planted. He added that the government has initiated the harvesting after imposing a tax on all imported timber products, thus, the move would help lift the local industry and create jobs.

"The government uses harvesting plans to fell a maximum of 5,000 hectares of trees per year and this ensures there is profit from the investments in forest plantations. The areas in which harvesting has been undertaken are then replanted," the KFS said.

According to the agency, forest plantations comprise 6 percent of Kenya's gazetted forest estate and exotic tree species have a rotation period of 25 to 30 years after which they begin to rot if they are not harvested.

"KFS has automated the process of issuance of plantation harvesting licenses which will now be done through the county forest conservators. Payment of taxes has also been automated to ensure compliance with government tax regulations," the agency said. It noted that a detailed harvesting security plan on access, control and supervision of actual harvesting and reporting has been put in place.

As part of the plan, entry certificates are presented to forest station managers before the removal of any forest produce, KFS said. And upon completion of the felling and withdrawal of materials, exit certificates are issued as evidence of compliance with all requirements. "The lifting of the ban on logging in gazetted forests was informed by an inventory on forest plantations which was undertaken by a multi-agency task force to confirm available stocks," KFS noted.

Environmentalists, however, have challenged the move, noting that it will claw back gains made in forest conservation.

Paula Kahumba, an environmental activist and a conservationist, said the lifting of the ban would badly expose the country to illegal logging. "It is a sad day for trees in Kenya. How will forests be protected? Planted trees will not deliver ecological, social, cultural and genetic value of old-growth forests," she said.

Elizabeth Wathuti, the head of programs at Wangari Maathai Institute, said planting trees aid in mitigating climate change, thus the country must stop deforestation that reverses tree-growing efforts. "As long as trees survive, they retain carbon within them, and trees can live for extended periods, spanning decades or even centuries. Trees act as natural carbon sinks," she said.

Wathuti also asked the government to explore the carbon market, eco-tourism and apiculture as other options to compensate communities that are custodians of rich forested areas.