NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - This year’s World Environment Day (WED) comes when the ogre of corruption, threatening to tear apart the fabric of our society is dominating the national debate in Kenya.
The World Environmental day celebrated on the 5th of June every year, seeks to raise consciousness and rally people across the world on the importance of a clean environment.
Thousands of activities, including tree planting, clean-ups, workshops, conferences and rallies are held, depending on the context in various parts of the globe.
The theme of this year’s WED, is “Beat plastics pollution”, and is being hosted by India. This year, we focus on the environmental challenges we face due to the piles of plastics produced and dumped on land and sea every hour, and their adverse effects on the beauty of the earth and the oceans. The global focus on this theme brings the issue of policy making and intervention to the centre-stage, with a view to “doing something” to arrest the problem.
Thousands of trees will be planted during this day, while tons of plastics will be collected and piled at some safer place away from people and water. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) will join several partners, led by the City County of Nairobi, to plant trees at Kikuyu Springs, one of the main sources of the water we drink in the city, which is threatened by encroachment by private developers, illicit tree poachers and degradation.
Planting trees and collecting garbage in front of cameras, as many leaders have done during this rainy season, is one commendable thing. And tending those trees to maturity and stopping garbage gettingpile-up should be a process rather than an event. These symbolic gestures by the top leadership should be followed by a more sustainable effort to harvest this goodwill by institutions entrusted to guard our environmental with preservation and protection.
But due to the runaway corruption which has passed the red line, any effort to reverse the damage visited upon the environment will likely be futile. Indeed, the report of the taskforce appointed by Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary KeriakoTobiko exposed the rot in the Forestry department and recommended drastic action against forest officials who have plundered this important national resource. One of the chilling revelations of the report is the fact that a whooping two billion shillings earmarked for a school forestry programme, was misappropriated. This is in addition to thousands of tons of trees which were felled by unscrupulous merchants in collusion with people who were entrusted with the responsibility to keep watch over our forests across the country.
It will therefore be a pointless attempt and narrow way of seeing things if we plant trees without minding whether the land on which we are planting will be a target by marauding land grabbers and speculators. It will also be waste of resources and valuable time if we collect all that garbage just for the camera, and when we go back home, we are the first to throw away that kitchen left-overs and bottles without thinking about their immediate impact on their destinations – land and ocean.
Tackling corruption of any magnitude calls for consciousness beginning from the individual level and our individual actions on the environment, as it should start with “me”. And that is how we should tackle corruption. If we resist that bribe, small or big, to stop the marauding land-grabber, we will see our trees growing.
The war on corruption cannot be won by the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and allied Agencies if individual citizens remain indifferent. Whether in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, or the entire system of the government, the dragon of corruption will only be slayed if all people, the poor and the rich, the powerful and the powerless, the haves and have-nots, accept and join hands in all the spaces of work, whether in public places and or in private homes.
Transparency and Accountability are key provisions of the Paris Agreement, the global Pact to combat climate change, which poses the biggest threat to the survival of humanity and health of the planet. Plastics, which are also known as polymers, are produced by the conversion of natural products or by synthesis from primary chemicals generally coming from oil, natural gas, or coal. Science tells us that the fossil fuel-based energy sources such as oil and coal, as well as land-use and land-use change, are the main causes of climate change.
As we seek to fight one time plastics, as per the theme of this year’s WED, we are contributing to the goal of the UN Climate Change Convention and the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit greenhouse gases which are the primary causes of climate change. The Paris Agreement, to which Kenya is a signatory, envisions the challenge corruption, lack of accountability and transparency would have in the achievement of its overall goal, and particularly when implementing policies and mitigation and adaptation actions.
All climate response programmes supported by Donors, such as the forest management supported by the World Bank and which is supposed to be implemented by UNDP and the State Department of Environment, require high degree of transparency and accountability. In addition, it goes without saying that respect for the rights of forest communities like the Sengwer of ElgeyoMarakwet County should be upheld at all times. This will removes any barriers to project implementations to such noble ideas as the Shs.360 Million Programme, whose commencement has been delayed due to various issues, including disagreements with indigenous communities.
Many opportunities abound as the country readies itself for the implementation of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a set of actions under its Paris Agreement obligation. This will however be derailed by the nauseating reports from corruption, not only from the department of Forestry, but also other Agencies of the Government, the most blatant being the National Youth Service, as well as the National Cereals and Produce Board. The dragon of corruption should not be let to eat the yoke of future generations, nor should it be let to cannibalize the very sources of livelihood of the people of this great nation.
The writer is the Executive Director, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (www.pacja.org)