Kenya’s Green Belt Movement environmentalists have raised alarm over an alleged plot to hive off land in the Karura forest – a reserve located in the northern part of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi that was a key focus for conservation efforts by the late nobel laureate Professor Wangari Maathai.
Reports say that there is a plan to develop 25 acres of Sigiria Block in the forest for commercial use. A company by the name Ibis Hospitality Ltd is alleged to have proposed to build a six-star hotel in the forest against public interest.
Karura forests sits on 1,000 hectares of land and is one of the country’s few remaining indigenous forests.
Maathai was known for her steadfast efforts to protect forests in the country that saw her whipped, tear-gassed and threatened with death.
The Green Belt Movement, a conservation group founded in 1977 by Wangari Maathai is calling on the public to protest against the latest attempt to grab part of Karura, after reports surfaced on social media about a plan to build a six-star hotel in the forest.
Aisha Karanja, the director of the Green Belt Movement said: “Karura cannot be grabbed; nobody is going to build in Karura. Professor Wangari Maathai fought for Karura and shed her blood and that can continue, I mean we cannot allow whoever it is — if there is integrity issues, we are saying Karura cannot be grabbed. And it’s not only Karura, we are calling for Kenyans to ensure that public land is protected. So the issue of integrity of KFS (Kenya Forestry Service) or no-integrity of KFS is not for The Green Belt to say. All we are saying is, we need information, we need written information and we need clarity and we need transparency when they are dealing with the public because this is public interest.”
Veteran environmental activist, Maathai was known for her steadfast efforts to protect forests in the country that saw her whipped, tear-gassed and threatened with death.
Her movement expanded in the 1980s and 1990s to embrace wider campaigns for social, economic and political change, setting her on a collision course with the government of the then-president, Daniel arap Moi.
Maathai, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her campaigns to save Kenyan forests. She died in 2011 while undergoing cancer treatment.
Deforestation accounts for almost a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by scientists for causing dangerous climate change.