The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will lose powers to sanction the variation of boundaries of a public forest or excision of a public forest if Parliament approves proposed changes to the law.
The National Assembly’s Procedure and House Rules Committee wants MPs to repeal a section of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016, which protects forests from actions that endanger any rare, threatened or endangered species.
Through the Forest Conservation and Management (Amendment) Bill 2021, the committee wants to delete section 34(2) of the law that compels petitioners seeking variation of boundaries or excision of public forest to get the concurrence of the KFS.
“A petition under subsection (1) shall only be forwarded to the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Service (KFS),” section 34(2) of the Act states.
Currently, any petition to Parliament seeking to vary boundaries of a public forest or the revocation of the registration of a public forest or a portion of a public forest must also demonstrate that the exercise will not adversely affect its value as a water catchment area and prejudice biodiversity conservation, cultural site protection of the forest or its use for educational, recreational, health or research.
In its recommendations to Parliament, the KFS is required by law to ensure that the intent of the variation must be approved by the Forest Conservation Committee in the area, independent environmental impact assessment and public participation should be carried out.
The Act allows any person to petition the National Assembly or the Senate, for the variation of boundaries of a public forest or the revocation of the registration of a public forest.
In 2020, for instance, Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir petitioned the National Assembly over the State’s decision to seize plots over claims of occupying a forest and land reserved a prison.
This is after the Environment Ministry announced its intention to repossess the land on grounds that the titles held by the residents relate to ungazetted forest land.
The National Assembly’s Environment and Forestry committee, which inquired into the petition returned a verdict that the law was followed in hiving off the 53.68 hectares where Sunvalley I, II & III Estates, and Royal Park Estate are built.
However, the committee found that the law was not followed in the excision of 34 acres where KMA Estate, Lang’ata Gardens Estate, Lang’ata View Estate, Shalom Estate, St Mary’s Hospital, and Forest Edge/View Estates are located.