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Kenya Environmentalists Continue to Battle Logging Plans - 2001-10-22

In Kenya, environmentalists say that, despite widespread public opposition, the government is moving ahead with plans to cut down more than 10 percent of the country's forests. The environmentalists say they are having difficulties getting the courts to hear their case against the logging.

When the government's plans to cut down 167,000 acres of protected forests were made public earlier this year, they caused an uproar. Almost 30,000 people signed a petition of protest and three court cases were lodged against the government. But the first of those cases was thrown out and the courts have yet to hear the others. Meanwhile, environmentalists say the government is ready to begin clearing the forests.

Gathuru Mburu of the environmental lobby group the Green Belt Movement says the authorities are already making plans for what will happen to the land when it is cleared.

"The minister for lands made the announcement that they are going to process the titles and then they are going to issue them out," he said. "And the people who are on the ground, they are giving us information that the process is going on, especially in Hombe Forest."

The Green Belt Movement in July sought to prevent the logging, but it has yet to be given a court date to present its case.

Mr. Mburu says his group will be able to apply for an injunction once it is given a court hearing. "This does not mean that will stop the government from going on with the process unless they put an injunction as a matter of urgency," he said.

The government says the cleared land will be allocated to squatters, but environmentalists charge it will be used to reward the ruling party's political supporters.

They say destruction of the forests will lead to increasing desertification, famine and destruction of the flora and fauna on which Kenya's tourism industry depends.