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Saving Kenyan forest. Is it a turning point?


mau-forest3.jpgAfter a decade of rampant destruction of the Mau forest water catchment in western Kenya, the country’s coalition government seems firmly united in trying to save the complex before more serious damage is inflicted on the economy.

U.N. officials say this is no longer simply an environmental issue but something that has huge importance for the whole country. Already two of the top three foreign exchange earners — tourism and tea — are feeling the impact of falling water levels which have also forced the postponement of a major hydro-electric project. 

Prime Minister Raila Odinga describes the forest’s destruction as a national emergency. Both foreign and local officials say there is no gap between Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki on the issue.

Saving the forest will involve huge costs to resettle and compensate some of the thousands of people living illegally there and restore tree cover which produces vital supplies of water. Officials say they expect international donors to provide major financial help.