Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai, says the East African country is rapidly sliding toward an ecological disaster. Maathai says corruption and mismanagement are responsible for accelerating the pace of the crisis.
In a fiery speech, Wangari Maathai blasted Kenyan politicians and business leaders for not doing their part to protect the country's forests, rivers, and wetlands from misuse and over-development.
The environmentalist, who founded the grassroots Green Belt Movement and was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, blamed rampant corruption for the crisis that she says is threatening the nation's food security and the lives of millions.
"The Green Belt Movement is shocked and embarrassed by the continuing reckless and insatiable greed for forests, rivers and wetlands despite the inevitable suffering that is befalling the people of this country," she says. "The long-term unsustainable management, occupation, exploitation and degradation of these resources have precipitated crop failure, hunger and death. There is no water even for drinking and for essential services. The situation is completely untenable. Our country is facing an ecological disaster of our own making."
Recent news reports in Kenya have warned of worsening power and water shortages in the country.
Lack of adequate rainfall caused by climate change, deforestation, and development of wetlands in recent years has been severe enough to shut down major power plants. Kenyans say corrupt officials at water companies often divert whatever water is available to higher-paying customers, leaving poor people with no clean water at all.
Many residents in rural areas of Kenya say they are drinking water from polluted rivers and lakes because their wells are running dry.
Inadequate water and power supplies have been blamed for hampering economic growth in Kenya and discouraging investment in the infrastructures the country needs to improve public services. In a recent report by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, Kenya was named as the most corrupt country in East Africa.
Maathai says Kenyans, battered by the after-effects of the 2008 post-election violence and under strain from the current global economic crisis, cannot afford to sit back and watch the country slide further down into deeper crisis. She says everyone must say 'no' to corruption and act now to save the environment.
"Let us start whenever we are by declaring enough is enough and beginning the reversing process," says Maathai. "We can start by refusing to be victims of greed, corruption, arrogance and selfishness; we must not wait until we die of hunger and thirst. We must take action and reverse this process."
On August 1st, the Green Belt Movement is planning to launch a protest in Nairobi in the form of planting trees. Greenbelt says volunteers will plant thousands of trees in areas of the capital considered fragile wetlands. Maathai says many of the wetlands have been illegally sold and developed, and the tree planting will be a symbolic way of reclaiming those lands for the Kenyan people.