Kara: Why celebrate World Environment Day for Kenya?
Every 5th June is commemorated as the World Environment Day (WED). It is a day that stimulates environmental awareness through highlights of achievements and failures the world has made towards enhancing good environmental policies and practices.
Major successes such as improved forest cover, well gazetted and documented environmental practices and enhanced environmental governance by various countries are celebrated to mark the day.
Kenya has made great strides in restoring the Mau Forest thanks to spirited efforts of Prime Minister Raila Odinga whom we want to single out for special commendation during this year’s WED.
We cannot forget the special contribution from various media houses for highlighting environmental issues. At the risk of offending the rest, we would like to mention the Nation Media Group, Capital FM, KBC and K24 for a work well done. Indeed, we hope that the media will continue incentivizing co-sponsorships on environmental programs.
Away from these successes, it is doubtful that Kenya has genuine reasons to celebrate possible successes on good environmental governance, massive public sensitization and mobilization on environmental protection and management.
Environmental challenges still abound. The country is still grappling with inadequate interventions against climate change, global warming from green houses and industrial emissions, environmental degradation, destruction of wetlands and riparian land, noise pollution, poor drainage and disposal systems in the urban and informal settlements, floods, human encroachment into the protected or riparian areas and less and less happening on the clean up of Nairobi River, among other issues.
That Nairobi and major cities are unable to cope with solid waste management, for instance, could be an understatement. The country does not have a single sanitary landfill. Talk of sanitizing the Dandora dumpsite has remained just that. The Ruai land meant for its relocation is feared to be in the wrong hands already. Meanwhile Nairobi alone continues to generate an average 1.1 million tonnes of solid waste every year.
Little effort to address to growing electronic waste from cellphones, batteries, bulbs and computers has hardly taken off. Disposal of medical and radioactive wastes remains a challenge even as many major hospitals grapple with reality of either inadequate or non-functional incinerators.
On e-waste, we want salute the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) for initiating a stakeholders' get-together to discuss way forward.
As this reality unfolds, the invisible National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has maintained its low capacity to effectively deal with the country’s environmental challenges. Indeed it is equally surprising that Environment and Mineral Resources minister John Michuki is hardly seen to be taking remedial action in the face of glaring environmental governance challenges. An all low level political goodwill in restoring saving our environment from further degradation.
While Nema is actually a useful agency that Kara hopes to work with, the leadership and governance challenges at the institution cannot allow it an optimal functionality. We are aware that the four year term of the current Nema Director General is coming to an end on 19th June 2010.
We expect that the MEMR and the board of NEMA will seize the opportunity to recommend to the President the urgent need to competitively fill the position. We expect that new director general will be able to reverse the sorry state in which the authority finds itself today.
It is time every citizen made sure that Nema fully exercises its powers as provided for under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) without fear or favour.
Ladies and gentlemen, our gathering here today is to seek spiritual interventions for our environment. As various measures are being put in place to address environmental governance, we contend that the religious leaders have a role to play, too. This is the second year running that we are cementing our partnership with religious leaders – not on any other issue including the constitution but for the good of our environment.
We therefore join hands with them and urge that they be at the forefront of speaking out against activities that threaten the well being of our environment and by extension our very own existence as a country. Besides, we hope their can effectively advance the environmental agenda by using their respective places of worship to promote tree planting, source separation of waste, good environmental governance, fight against noise pollution amongst other ills afflicting the environment.
On matters environment, everyone and not just the government is a stakeholder. It will take the effort and cooperation of all groups of goodwill such as religious leaders, civil society organizations, NGOs, CBOs, corporate organizations among others to realize an environment that we can all be proud of. We therefore call upon each one of you to do your part and ensure that we spare our environment from further destruction.
We urge DPM and Finance Minister Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta to consider a substantive increment of government resource allocation to environmental issues during the 2010/11 financial year budget estimates.
As a sign of our commitment to promotion of good environmental practices, we planted a commemorative tree outside the Sarova Panafric Hotel today. We urge you and fellow Kenyans to extend a similar gesture to your respective areas of operations and/or residence. Each Kenyan should plant at least a single tree during this World Environment Day. Thank you.