Environmental Court Halts Lifting of Ban on Logging

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

In a landmark decision, the Environment and Land Court in Nairobi suspended President William Ruto’s recent decision to allow logging to resume in state forests after a more than five-year ban.

The ban, initially put in place by the previous government in 2018, aimed to curb illegal logging practices that threatened Kenya’s forests and the numerous ecological benefits they provide. Illegal logging not only depletes forest resources but also poses a significant threat to the biodiversity and ecosystem balance in these areas. Due to this, the government sought to put measures in place to increase Kenya’s tree cover to 10 percent.

However, in July, President Ruto lifted the ban, citing economic development, and job creation as primary reasons. Lifting the ban inadvertently disregarded the long-term environmental consequences of such a decision. The court’s ruling declared the decision “null and void” due to a lack of public debate, emphasizing the importance of public participation in making laws and regulations related to forestry activities.

President Ruto’s decision to lift the logging ban raised significant concerns, with environmental protection groups and activists arguing that it failed to consider the environmental impact of a return to logging.

They criticized the government’s disregard for the role forests play in mitigating climate change, preserving biodiversity, and safeguarding vital ecosystems.

In his 2022 presidential campaign, Ruto had pledged to plant 15 billion trees as part of his climate change combat program, making his decision to lift the ban appear contradictory to his earlier environmental commitments.

The decision to halt the resumption of logging represents a crucial step towards sustainable forestry practices and responsible environmental stewardship. It also underscores the importance of adhering to environmental laws and regulations. Furthermore, it highlights the involvement of the scientific community and the public in decision-making processes that impact the environment. It emphasizes that the public and concerned parties should have a say in decisions concerning forests and the environment.

In this case, the lack of consultation with the scientific community and other stakeholders regarding the potential environmental impact of logging undermined the decision’s validity.

Forests are essential components of the natural environment, providing a wide range of ecosystem services, from carbon sequestration to water purification. A responsible and sustainable approach to forestry management is crucial to ensure the long-term health of these ecosystems.

It is worth noting that the forestry industry in Kenya contributed 1.6 percent to the country’s GDP in 2017. While economic growth is vital, it should not be at the expense of the environment. The court’s ruling suggests that the economic value of forests should be balanced with their ecological importance.

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