New Atlas for Kenya's green development launched

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- A new publication by the United Nations Environmental Pr ogramme (UNEP) that maps a blueprint for Kenya's Green Development was launched h ere Saturday.
The 168-page publication, "Kenya: Atlas of Our Changing Environment", produced b y UNEP at the request of the government of Kenya, is the first-ever publication o f its kind to document environmental changes in an individual country, through t h e use of dozens of satellite images spanning the last three decades.
The publication, launched by Kenyan Environment Minister John Michuki and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, shows both the diversity and the fragility of the country's natural assets which are at the heart of the nation's socio-econom i c development.
It highlights some success stories of environmental management around the countr y, but it also puts the spotlight on major environmental challenges, including d e forestation, soil erosion and coastal degradation.
According to the data presented in the Atlas, Kenya has made some important stri des towards achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - with not a ble headway in the fight against poverty, the provision of universal education a n d the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Yet, challenges remain for the eastern African country on the road to achieving environmental sustainability, notably limited government capacity for environmen t al management and insufficient institutional and legal frameworks for enforcemen t and coordination.
The Atlas notes that deforestation, land degradation and water pollution are som e of the challenges Kenya needs to address to achieve MDGs and ensure environmen t al sustainability.
One key finding of the Atlas is that achieving environmental sustainability is f undamental to achieving all the MDGs.
Environmental resources and conditions have a significant impact on many aspects of poverty and development.
On another note, the atlas observes that the country's chances of realising its Vision 2030 will depend increasingly on the way it manages its natural or nature - based assets, many of which were coming under rising pressure.
"From shrinking tea-growing areas to disappearing lakes, increasing loss of tree cover in water catchments and proliferating mosquito breeding grounds, environm e ntal degradation is taking its toll on Kenya's present and future development op p ortunities," said the publication.
It called for an improved and more creative management to translate the aspirati on to the realisation of Vision 2030.
"The Atlas makes a strong case that investments in green infrastructure within a Green Economy can bring it closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals .
The Atlas is for the government and for all Kenyans who want to see transformat i onal change and a path out of poverty to prosperity by sustainably realising the country's true development potential," Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director ob s erved The Atlas before-and-after satellite images, vividly document the environmental change in 30 locations across Kenya since 1973, including the Mau Forest Complex , a key water catchment, which is being deforested at an alarming rate due to cha r coal production, logging, encroachment and settlements.
One quarter of the Mau forest - some 100,000 hectares - has been destroyed since 2000.
Lakes across the country are under intensified pressure, with Lake Naivasha stru ggling to cope with the expansion of settlements and flower farms in the towns o f Naivasha and Karagita; Lake Turkana losing water through a combination of decre a sed rainfall, increased upstream diversion and increased evaporation, due to hig h er temperatures.
Some estimates suggest that about half of the mangroves on Kenya's coast have be en lost over the past 50 years due to the over-exploitation of wood products and conversion to salt-panning, agriculture and other uses.
The Atlas provides compelling visual evidence of the changes taking place in 30 locations across the country's critical ecosystems due to pressures from human a c tivities.
The before-and-after display of satellite images spanning three decades highligh ts forest loss, wetland drainage, shrinking lakes and coastal degradation, as we l l as examples of good management and successful environmental strategies.
The Atlas analyses the linkages between the country's major socio-economic activ ities and its key natural resources - illustrating, for example, the link betwee n agricultural productivity and forests, which regulate the micro-climates that m a ke farming possible.

14 february 2009 15:58:00

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