SAVING THE MAASAI MARA

Every year  the great migration in the Maasai Mara leads almost two million animals to cross the swelling Mara river in search of food and water.The majority of these are gnus but we also have zebras,impalas,gazelles,elephants and giraffes.You can read more about this seventh wonder of the world here,here and here.

Scientists and environmentalists have reported on a  weed threatening the the Mara ecosystem,the plant known has already gained notoriety in Australia,India and Ethiopia as it inhibits growth of other plants.With an ecosystem already facing human encroachment,pollution and disease action needs to be taken fast to weed it out before what is arguable Kenya’s biggest wildlife sanctuary becomes obsolete.The full report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature can be read here.

The UK guardian carried an article on the weed as early as March of this year and by then they were already efforts by the Kenya Wildlife Service which is the government body charged with the management of game reserves and national parks and CABI(Center for Agricultural Bioscience International) to control the weed.The news only hit local media channels this year when KTN carried a report on the weed in its prime time news this past week.

Seeing that devolved government stars functioning after we hold our election on the 14th of August next year,Narok county needs to look for ways in which the local community and all stake holders not just donors can weed the plant out.Whether it is by involving the local communities in physically pulling it out as suggested by some scientists let everything be done to ensure that the weed does not encroach on animals grazing ground.It is said to spread very fast and it is my hope the government is aware of this and doing all it can by providing support to the people of Narok to care for this park that plays  host to  the seventh wonder of the world every June.

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IS KENYA READY FOR NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION

Last week marked a quarter of a century since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine and almost two months since Japan’s Fukushima incident.Over the labor day weekend the Ministry of energy together with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company advertised the positions for senior management in the proposed nuclear energy project the country is now looking into.

Kenya wants to join the list of African countries already looking into the possibility of tapping into nuclear power.The only country in Africa that as had an active nuclear power plant is South Africa which has been operating since 1984.

The power plant is expected to be built by 2017 according to ,the project has already received approval from the UN nuclear safety body International Atomic Energy Agency.Seeing that all this was done last year,i am sure there are concern that have already surfaced after the recent happenings in the industry ,chief among them safety standards for human population and the environment in the vicinities of these plants.

There have already been protest in Japan over the use of nuclear energy after this past disaster and Kenya with a very poor record of disaster response needs to think about this before this ambitious project is launched.There have also been concerns raised over the safety of the proximity of nuclear plants to human population so it would be interesting to see where the government plans to locate the proposed nuclear plant.

Another question we need to be asking ourselves is what will we be doing with spent nuclear fuel?According to a feature done by CNN after the recent Japan disaster is the innovative way Sweden has been disposing of its waste fuel.It has been burying its nuclear waster in copper resistant copper canisters and burying them under 500m of crystalline bedrock in Osthammar in central Sweden,the idea though is yet to get final approval.

Something else that we need to admit is that we definitely lack the technical expertise for this kind of project and it is almost given that we will need expatriate help for such a project.

Another concern is safety ,with nuclear power plants needing 24 hour surveillance and monitoring are we going to invest enough resources whether monetary or in terms of infrastructure to ensure we adhere to the strictest standards.In case of any eventualities,how will the response be?with our government unable to ensure and enforce safety standards in structural buildings what assurance can we get from the stake holders and partners in the project.

It is my wish to see this country develop,but with the rest of the world looking for alternative sources of energy ,have we exhausted all avenues of generating alternate sources from wind and solar power?Geothermal power generation is still in its infancy and we are yet to feel its contribution in the power grid.Kenyans are still experiencing power outages,new customers seeking to enjoy hydro electric power are still kept waiting because poles are not available or meters have not been sourced.Nuclear power demands that we need to be on top of our game and with the power company battling power cable thieves,transformer vandalism,electric fires are we sure we can harness nuclear power with the utmost dexterity?

In my opinion we need to exhaust the safest and cheapest means available before we tackle nuclear power generation.It has so many unknowns and with countries that have been using nuclear power like China,India and Pakistan reviewing their use of this kind of power in light of the Fukushima disaster,we need to take all the concerns being raised into consideration as we embark on this ambitious project.

WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO OUR NOBEL LAUREATE?

The history of the Nobel peace prize is more than a century old and it is one of the most prestigious accolades that can be paid to any individual in their lifetime.One just has to take a look at past recipients who read like a list of pedigree in areas such as Physics,Chemistry and literature to know that the recipients are in good company.

Africa boasts of only one woman on that list and that is Professor Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement.This lady who was a one time Mp of Tetu Constituency has a long history of commendable work in all matters environmental in the country.In the 80’s when Uhuru Park faced annihilation from private developers she faced down the Kanu government at the time and one of the last green spots of the city in the sun was saved.

This year our very able Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Noah Wekesa was in Central Kenya to launch a guidebook on the planting of the eucalyptus tree.Reading the press release on the launch on the Kenya Forestry Services website,i tried to look for a really good reason as to why we needed this tress that have been known to suck up water like a sponge and dry up water sources wherever they have found root.Most of the reasons given for planting this tress was their fast maturity rate and the fact that one could get upto three thousand Kenya shillings for one tree.This according to one farmer was the reason why he cleared his farm of coffee which was not bringing in enough money and he opted for the trees.

A few days later Professor Wangari was up in arms against this project,reiterating the very same things she has said over the years,the trees are a bad idea.But it seems no one is listening despite the impressive track record she has had over the years no one is listening to the Prof.

This begs the question,why is the government following through on this disastrous path?Have they thoroughly evaluated the impact of en masse planting of eucalyptus trees?it was shocking to hear one of the reasons given at the launch for the planting of the tree was because Kenyans were trooping to Tanzania to buy timber ,so we needed to tap into these demand to beat the Tanzanians.

With the National Environmental Management Authority busy implementing laws to curb littering in public vehicles,have they done an environmental impact report on the viability of the eucalyptus project?I was reading a report on the eucalyptus tree in Aracruz in Brazil it was quite a detailed report and according to their evaluation the eucalyptus had little if no impact on the water levels in the areas it was planted.

Though the jury may still be out on this,it is important for both the government and environmental bodies and lobbyists to be on the same page as regards the project.Just imagine three decades later when everyone has forgotten about the furor that was raised over the issue and the water sources in Nyeri county and in other areas around the country have all dried up?

Let us hope that Kenyan always the most ingenious of people when it comes to making an extra buck will thoroughly follow through with the guidelines the Kenya Forestry services has issued.Farmers have been advised not to plant the tree along river beds or near water catchment areas and if followed through it is hoped the country can increase its forest cover while also generating income for individuals who take up the project.