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    THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS

    Wednesday, 28 May 2008

     UNEP and the Executive Director in the News ; Daily Nation (Kenya): State moves to save Mau Forest ; AllAfrica.com: Raila's Turn to Tour Critical Mau Forest Complex Ruffles Feathers ; The Standard (Kenya): New war front for Raila

    ; Xinhua: Central Asian countries highlight Aral Sea crisis for int'l help

    ; One World South Asia: UNEP debate: India succumbing to ‗outdated mindsets‘

    ; Undercover.com.au: Missy Higgins Connects 2 Earth

    ; The Irish Times: Variety of life

    ; Roadracing World: More On 'World Environment Day' At Miller Motorsports Park

     ; Pine Rivers Press (Australia): UN gives green nod to council

     ; Darwin Palmerston Sun (Australia): Conservation chief guest

     ; Hindustan Times (India): Saving the earth

     ; EFE (Spain): Pequim recomenda que pessoas com problemas respiratórios evitem sair às

     ruas

    Other Environment News

; Reuters: Brazil gets new environment minister

    ; Reuters: Brazil's Lula: new minister no Amazon destroyer ; AFP: British charity 'bewildered' by Amazon inquiry: spokesman ; Reuters: Congo basin forest is biggest for approved logging ; Reuters: Greenland hosts Arctic sovereignty talks

    ; AFP: Arctic powers hold summit in Greenland

    ; Reuters: Heavy pollution warning issued in Beijing

    ; Reuters: Caribbean nations plan marine parks to aid economy ; AFP: Nuclear energy best option for Gulf states: experts ; San Francisco Chronicle: China just might surprise the U.S. on climate change ; Guardian:RWE close to EU antitrust deal-sources

    ; Reuters: Plastic Not Fantastic? - Bag Bans Around The World ; Reuters: Congo Basin Forest Is Biggest For Approved Logging ; Guardian (UK): We must all act together

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    Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

; ROA

    ; ROAP

    ; RONA

    ; ROLAC

    ; ROWA

    Other UN News

     Environment News from the UN Daily News of 27 May 2008 (none) ;

    ; Environment News from the S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 27 May

    2008 (none)

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    UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

Daily Nation (Kenya): State moves to save Mau Forest

Story by KENNEDY MASIBO

    Publication Date: 5/28/2008

    The Government has suspended all land activities at the controversial Mau Forest complex.

    PM Raila Odinga addresses Nakuru town residents shortly after visiting Mau Forest on Tuesday Photo/FILE

    All those living in the expansive forest will be moved in a fresh bid to prevent its destruction, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Tuesday after an extensive tour of the forest.

    However, he revealed that the Government will resettle those in possession of legal title deeds elsewhere.

Said Mr Odinga: ―We shall respect the deeds because they are legal documents.‖

    At the same time, he assured those living close to the gazetted forest land that they will not be moved.

    The premier also directed that an audit be done on the ownership of the land in the area.

    Mr Odinga was speaking during a media briefing in Nakuru where he was supported by Lands Minister James Orengo who said the Government will dialogue with those affected by the directive to seek a way forward.

Uphold peace

    ―We shall not move people forcefully. We shall talk to them and seek a long term solution to this issue,‖ said Mr Orengo.

    The PM, who addressed two barazas at Nkareta and Tendwet, said a meeting between the communities involved and the Government will be held in two weeks.

    He asked leaders in the affected areas to continue preaching and upholding peace.

    At Tendwet, where one of the communities is accused of encroaching on the land, the Mr Odinga said the Government would only recognise the holders of genuine title deeds.

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    He also commended the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) for addressing the destruction of one of the most important water catchment areas in the country.

    Earlier at the Nkareta rally in Narok, there was a moment of anxiety when a conservationist, who is also a nominated councillor, singled out some leaders in the PM‘s delegation as among those allocated parts of the forest land illegally.

    But in apparent response, Mr Odinga said this was not the time to point fingers, but to solve the problem.

    Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor Hassan said the Mau Forest issue should not be politicised and that the Government will have to talk to the people and agree on the way forward.

    Environmental experts from the European Union and Unep were also in the team.

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AllAfrica.com: Raila's Turn to Tour Critical Mau Forest Complex Ruffles Feathers

    The Nation (Nairobi)

NEWS

    27 May 2008

    Posted to the web 27 May 2008

By John Mbaria

    Nairobi

    As the Prime Minister, when Mr Raila Odinga visits the Mau Forest Complex Tuesday, he will be hard put to make unpopular pronouncements, but which will nevertheless safeguard the future of millions of Kenyans, who depend on the environmental services offered by the Mau.

    The flight Mr Odinga takes Tuesday will be over parts of the 400,000-hectare forest complex that are now reeling under widespread invasion by illegal settlers, logging and destruction of indigenous trees, hundreds of acres of forest land that are now converted into cropland, encroachment by tea plantations and pockets of thick smoke emanating from tens (if not hundreds) of charcoal burning kilns.

    Mr Odinga is likely to relive a tour made by Environment and Natural Resources minister John Michuki on May 8.

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    The latter is said to have been "horrified' by the destruction of this all-important life-supporting natural system. It is believed that Mr Odinga's interest and decision to tour the Mau was occasioned by prompting from Michuki.

    Earlier, a combined team of conservationists from Unep, the Kenya Forestry Working Group and the Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority had made a rapid aerial assessment, which unearthed the "mayhem" wrought on the Mau forests.

    The team conducted the surveillance trip on January 23, with the aim of ascertaining some complaints made of increased forest destruction after the disputed 2007 December presidential elections.

    The team overflew a number of forests that constitute the Mau Forest Complex -Maasai Mau, Ol Pusimoru, Transmara and South West Mau.

    The team later prepared a report, "Southern Mau Complex Forests Rapid Aerial Assessment", that paints a rather gloomy picture on the status of the forests. The more than 400,000 complex is reputed to be the largest remaining continuous forest cover in East Africa. It is vital as a catchment area for rivers Nzoia, Yala, Nyando, Mara and Sondu -all which empty into Lake Victoria.

    Without Mau forests, such lakes like Nakuru, Naivasha, Baringo, Natron (in Tanzania) and Turkana would be no more. Further, the forests provide support to a wide diversity of wildlife that grace the Maasai Mara National Reserve, among other protected areas. Indeed, the biggest percentage of Kenya's economy -tea, dairy, horticulture, tourism and large to small holder farming- is intricately intertwined with what happens in the Mau. But from the report, it seems many of the forests have continued to be destroyed under the very noses of different government departments.

    For instance, the report says that there are now settlements on the Eastern Block, north-western and south-western parts of the Maasai Mau Forest.

    Those settling here, the report says, have not only put up illegal shelters, but have opened up fields for crop production. Besides this, extensive destruction of indigenous trees has been going on.

    Those who carried out the assessment came across what they term in the report; "logging of indigenous trees, mostly podo, along the eastern boundary".

    This is more so along the Enkare Sikinder river and that logging seemed to have intensified to the northern part along that boundary.

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    In the Ol Pusimoru Forest Reserve -which is now managed by the Kenya Forest Service - the assessors found increased encroachment by settlers, especially to the south-western corner.

    According to the report: "If not addressed promptly, this will lead to a total clear felling of the forest in that area."

    Large section

    The report says the danger is compounded by increased settlement in the Sierra Leone area of Maasai Mau Forest.

    As far as the South West Mau Forest Reserve is concerned (also managed by the KFS), a large section degazetted in 2001 is now "almost completely settled".

    But settlers have not stopped there, the report says they have now encroached on the area that is still cropped with the indigenous trees. It says there is "intensification of the settlements inside the remaining gazetted forest along the 2001 excision boundary". Transmara forest reserve is not spared either. Besides "limited logging" of podo trees, those who did the aerial reconnaissance found forest fire on the north eastern and south east corner and tea plantations that have encroached into Transmara and south west Mau forest reserves "beyond the boundaries of the illegally allocated land". From the report, it seems that Mr Odinga will definitely come across evidence of a big and rising threat not only to the country's economy, but also to lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley.

    He is expected to make a public statement against the ongoing destruction that is also likely to give directions on the next course of action by the Government. In the past, the Government's desire to put a halt to this has been frustrated by two camps of politicians.

    Unfairly targeted

    There are those -particularly from the Rift Valley - who have raised issue with the Government's anti-forest destruction moves saying that it unfairly targeted members of certain communities - some who now have title deeds to some of the affected lands. Then there are those who have supported the Government's actions, arguing that this was the only way it could safeguard vital water catchment areas and - by extension - the extensive livestock-based pastoralist economy.

    "Raila will definitely witness the ongoing destruction first hand," says the coordinator of the Kenya Forestry Working Group, Mr Michael Gachanja.

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    For the Prime Minister though , it might be a tricky matter because his statement will indeed balance between making pronouncements that might jeopardise his popularity in the Rift Valley, which is the bedrock of support to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

    Cater for lives

    It will also be some sort of a dilemma for the Prime Minister because he is expected by most Kenyans to protect, guide and spearhead courses that cater for lives and livelihoods of millions.

    However, for the conservationists, it is a straightforward matter.

    "The Government should now go beyond making statements and implement a course of action that will safeguard the country's future," says Mr Gachanja.

    Indeed, the report by Unep and other groups had asked the Government, through the KFS, to "prevent further encroachment" and to settle the more than 1,000 people with titles "elsewhere and to consider removing the squatters".

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The Standard (Kenya): New war front for Raila

    Published on May 28, 2008, 12:00 am

    By David Ohito And Kipchumba Kemei

    Prime Minister Raila Odinga trod a delicate balance when he came face-to-face with the thorny Mau Forest issue, which could complicate his political future more. Raila, who toured the forest in a large entourage of stakeholders in three helicopters spelt out decisions that clearly implied he was aware of the dilemma the ecosystem posed for him.

    Even as the PM moved to save the forest that is Kenya‘s largest water catchment area and to cushion settlers who have been brutally evicted from farms for which they have title deeds, it was clear that the issue was much more than an environmental concern. It also has a political and ethnic twist to it. Mau Forest, approximately 420,000 acres, is predominantly in Maasailand, but a large number of the Kipsigis acquired land and settled there.

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    Now, the Kipsigis face eviction and their MPs, who drummed up support for Raila in the last General Election, are up in arms and out to defend their ‗land‘. Up to 47,000 acres of forestland has been hived off for settlement.

    In his position as Prime Minister, Raila was returning to an area that voted for him nearly to a man as the ODM presidential candidate last year. Then, he gave hope to the 30,000 residents who were evicted from the forest by the Narc Government.

    But on Tuesday, he came face-to-face with pent up anger from the local community and was told that Government officials and some MPs who were part of his entourage were the culprits in hiving off the indigenous forest and adjacent prime lands. Grabbers named

    A nominated Narok councillor, Mr Jackson Kamuye, who is the chairman of Friends of Mau Conservation Trust, named some MPs in Raila‘s entourage and top civil servants as "land grabbers".

    Said Kamuye: "Those implicated in excising Mau Forest and acquiring land in the catchments are some of the MPs present here. One was defeated in the last General Election and one is a senior provincial administrator in Nakuru."

    The delicate nature of Raila‘s assignment also hung on the fact that if he ruled that the eviction of the remaining 15,000 settlers goes on, he would be seen to add another wound to a region whose MPs have been grumbling.

    They say they were short-changed in the Grand Coalition Government and some have even gone ahead and joined calls for a Grand Opposition.

    And if he allowed evictees to return, the PM would be seen to go against Government policy to conserve the precious indigenous forest gem.

    Raila had announced the Mau trip on Friday during an ODM meeting in Nairobi where his party ministers unsuccessfully tried to convince youthful MPs to back off the proposed Grand Opposition.

    It was clear he was not courting further estrangement from the region and told residents who had waited for him at Tendwet and Nkaret that the eviction process would go on, but it would be done with a human face.

    Unlike in the past, he said, those who had title deeds, but live in the forest boundaries would be compensated.

    However, those who had no titles would be dealt with separately.

    Local politicians barred

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    Apparently aware of the emotive issue that is Mau, Raila did not give a chance to any of the regional politicians who accompanied him to speak. Only three ministers from outside the region made short speeches.

    Accompanying him were Cabinet ministers Dr Noah Wekesa (Forestry and Wildlife), Mrs Charity Ngilu (Water), Mr William ole Ntimama (National Heritage) and Mr James Orengo (Lands).

    Others were MPs, Mr Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu), Dr Julius Kones (Konoin), Mr Luka Kigen (Rongai), Mr Nkaidili ole Lankas (Narok South), Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi) and Assistant Lands minister, Mr Gonzi Rai, Permanent Secretaries Mr Kombo Mwero (Forestry and Wildlife), Ms Dorothy Angote (Lands) and Dr Mohammed Isahakia (PM‘s office).

    Conspicously absent was Environment minister, Mr John Michuki.

    Raila, who spoke at two stops, Tendwet and Nkare, and later at a Press briefing in Nakuru, ordered an audit of land ownership in the forest.

    The audit could open a can of worms and help the Government get back at original owners who were allocated land in dubious circumstances in 1998, most of them believed to be senior politicians and civil servants.

    Raila also ordered a stop to land transactions in the area until issues were resolved. He called for a meeting in two weeks‘ time to be attended by Mau stakeholders to discuss the outstanding issues.

    "I agree mistakes were made by past regimes. The forest is destroyed, but we can‘t go on mourning. We must take the bull by its horn," Raila said after a closed-door meeting with local leaders and top civil servants in Nakuru.

    He added: "It is true excision was done by Government officials and some politicians and it is a mess we are dealing with, but let‘s stop the blame game and resolve issues once and for all."

    Raila assured those living in the forest and hold title deeds that they would be compensated and moved to allow for conservation.

    "Some people are innocent victims who were sold land. We will listen to their cases and help accordingly," Raila said.

    "We want county councils to stop the demarcation process until we resolve the issue," Raila said.

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    He assured them that the police or forest guards would not burn houses as they evicted people.

    "This is a beastly approach which has failed before," Raila said in reference to eviction methods used in 2003 and 2005.

    Reforms underway

    Unep Policy and Programmes Officer, Mr Christian Lambretchs, said tea, tourism and energy were under threat from forest destruction.

    He warned that if the forest was not saved, the Sondu Miriu power project could become stillborn and rivers feeding Lake Victoria extinct.

    While assuring residents that the Government would respect the sanctity of title deeds, Orengo said comprehensive reforms were the only solution to land problems. "You have co-existed with animals well. Why should you fell trees that your great grandfathers found, but never destroyed?" Orengo asked.

    Ngilu said: "We must conserve our forests to guard our rivers from drying up. This we must succeed in doing by putting our differences aside."

    Wekesa said: "Communities living around the forest must take lead in protecting and caring for our precious forests."

    And as the heavy-powered delegation headed back to Nairobi, most of them were pretty aware of how much the Mau Forest issue needed to be handled with care. Back to Menu

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    Xinhua: Central Asian countries highlight Aral Sea crisis for int'l help www.chinaview.cn 2008-05-28 08:28:01

     UNITED NATIONS, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The UN ambassadors of five Central Asian countries on Tuesday put a spotlight on the deepening environmental crisis involving the Aral Sea, which used to be the world's fourth largest lake but has only shrunk to one- tenth of its original size.

     In their respective statements delivered at a UN seminar, the permanent representatives of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, whose countries share the Aral Sea Basin, were unanimous in appealing for attention and support from the international community.

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