The Link Between Environment and Economic Growth

Published on 23rd February 2009

Following the fact that over 10 million Kenyans are facing hunger and starvation, many have shifted blame to prolonged drought, crop failure, the recent maize scandal, Global warming and reduced water levels in most of our wetlands.


Drought patterns have changed from the 5 year- pattern to less. We had drought in 2006 and now its here with us. The common man suffers and is always directly affected with the effects of drought, sad enough he is the person who is not aware of the importance of conserving the environment.


Until people fully understand the importance of conserving the environment, drought and famine are here to stay. We have bodies that have the mandate to promote environmental conservation but it seems less is being achieved. One is Nema- National Environment Management authority efforts seem to be thwarted by corrupt officials within the government.


A recent story in The Standard (6th Feb. 2009) revealed that a private developer has defied Nema’s order to stop building villas on Kibarage stream wetland which feeds Nairobi river, yet billions of shillings have been set aside for the cleaning exercise of the river. My question is - why waste the billions, yet someone is destroying the wetland that will feed the river? We do not need rocket science to predict that at some point, the water levels of this river will drop.


Green grass         

The general public ought to be enlightened about the benefits of conserving our wetlands which contribute largely to the amount of rainfall received each year. Although some media houses are trying their best to carry out environmental conservation advocacy, political reporting has outdone conservation stories. The media is also keen on showbiz and talk shows which attract more advertisers at the expense of critical issues. The media ought to understand that an empowered community would bring more money to the media industry through their adverts for various community based conservation projects.


Nairobi Dam had potential to supply water to Nairobi city but it has been infested by the water hyacinth which has wrought havoc in most of our lakes such as L.Naivasha and L. Victoria. Our policy makers should borrow a leaf from groups like Darwin Initiative which promotes environmental conservation through community based conservation films. According to the project co-coordinator, Dr. Harper (lecturer at Leicester university and a scientist who studies Rift Valley lakes) communities need to be empowered more on conservation matters.


Ignorance on the importance of conservation, according to Dominic Kimani (an Ornithologist), has led to grabbing of a dam in South Kinangop, near Njambini town. The dam is now dry. Dominic who visited the area accompanied  by a journalist from South Africa recounted how people who claim to own this beautiful dam cultivated large parcels of land that were once covered by the dam. Ecologically, this will affect so many birds especially the palaerctic migrants who come here during winter.


Five years ago, Dominic led a team of volunteers from the National Museums of Kenya and other community members to conduct the census of the water bird. In particular, they counted over a thousand Northern sholvers, (ducks from Europe) that migrate here. On their recent visit to the area, they could not record a single duck. Only the sand pipers were at sight.


This is a clear indicator that residents of Kinangop South will loose both ecologically and economically because these birds could attract tourists who can increase income to this community. At all costs, conservation is of great benefit to the community if embraced.


By Mary Mwendwa

Programmer and Presenter at the Transworld Radio


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