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Protests rock Mombasa over cutting of special trees by a private developer

Chairman of Clean Mombasa environmental lobby group, Dr. Edwin Mwinga Chokwe, inspecting indigenous trees cut by a private developer along the Machakos-Liwatoni Road in Mombasa town. PHOTO/COURTESY

By DUKE TSUMA

The chairman of Clean Mombasa environmental lobby group, Dr. Edwin Mwinga Chokwe, has condemned the destruction of trees along the Machakos-Liwatoni road in Mombasa town by a private developer.

Dr Mwinga led protests by a section of the town residents called on government agencies responsible for the environment to investigate circumstances under which a private developer was allowed to cut down 20 indigenous trees planted on a pedestrian walk. He claimed the private had encroached on a pedestrian walkway and he was erecting a concrete wall.

“Those concerned with protecting our environment in Mombasa should investigate under what circumstances a private developer is encroaching on a pedestrian walkway, cutting trees and erecting a concrete wall,” he said.

The developer, who is said to have leased a go-down belonging to the old Kenya Railways Station in Mombasa, is alleged to have cut down the trees without the approval of the Kenya Forest Services (KFS), NEMA and Mombasa County Government.

The trees were allegedly cut down to pave way for a perimeter wall being constructed around the go-down. Dr Mwinga who also chairs the Clean Mombasa CBO, said the indigenous trees were planted over 20 years ago by jua kali (informal sector) workers and food vendors along the Industrial Area to protect them from the extreme heat in Mombasa.

“Last Thursday, we got wind that the said developer was cutting the trees. We came here with a KFS official and he agreed he will not cut the trees, but to our surprise, we received calls from traders on Monday informing us that the trees have been cut down and some of their structures destroyed,” Dr Mwinga said.

The Clean Mombasa lobbyist is now calling on Mombasa County, KFS and NEMA to come out clear on the matter and explain who approved the developer to cut and uproot the indigenous trees that have over the years provided shade and clean breathing air to the people operating around the area.

Dr Mwinga said the cutting of the trees has also destroyed the ecosystem as a number of bird species lived on the trees. The developer is also alleged to have gone beyond the initial boundary for the perimeter wall erected by the railways company and extended his new wall to the road reserve, affecting the trees and pavement.

“We feel like we have lost our inheritance and we want both the county, Nema and KFS officials to explain to us what happened. We also want this exercise stopped immediately,” Mwinga said.

The UN says trees are vitally important for sustaining life on Earth, and play a major role in the fight against climate change as they are “lungs of the planet.” PHOTO/COURTESY

We were not successful in getting a comment from the concerned parties at the time of filing our story. Last December, President William Ruto, while celebrating his 56th birthday, launched a tree restoration program at Ngong Hills signaling the beginning of the government’s ambitious plan to plant 15 billion trees by 2032.

The president called on all Kenyans to join in the challenge and plant at least 100 trees each and also inculcate the culture of tree planting among the youth.

“Whatever is happening here is totally going against the President’s plans on mitigating against climate change and biodiversity loss. For a small island like Mombasa people should not cut down trees, they should instead plant more,” Dr Mwinga said.

The juakali (informal sector) people working around the area also expressed concerns over the manner in which the trees were cut down leaving the area exposed to extreme heat.

 

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