Kenya in Dire Need of a National Environmental Policy

Posted on 27 January 2009. Filed under: Environment, Governance |

Countries around the world are pursuing environmental management at various levels and employing a range of strategies. However, available evidence suggests that environmental policy in developing countries remains largely incoherent. Developing countries need rationalized environmental policies. These are lacking mainly because poverty and socioeconomic needs are often seen as more pressing than the need for environmental controls. How to balance these is a major challenge. Kenya, in particular, is faced with diverse and complex environmental challenges and has been struggling to resolve these, mainly because it has been operating without a national environmental policy. As the country strives to accelerate the pace of development, environmental concerns have become more evident. This is further compounded by the difficulties of placing an economic value on natural resources. Meanwhile the continuing deterioration of Kenya’s environment has precipitated a number of hazards that have long-term irreversible damage. The adverse impacts of deforestation, particularly where natural ecosystems are involved, are widely recognized. The planned forest clearance, which has gotten underway in several areas of the Mount Kenya, the Nandi forests and the Mau Forest, is to benefit mainly local loggers, squatters and tea growers. Similarly, out of the justifiable need to create more jobs and enhance economic development, policy makers and planners often ignore the potential negative effects that various developments cause to the environment – a situation exacerbated by the rapidly growing population.

In Kenya, policy making and the whole planning process has tended to fall short of the expectations. It was in post independence Kenya that the government was to create an equitable structure that would support the efficient utilization of available resources. However, the country’s first two development plans for the periods 1965 -1974 had no explicit mention of environmental policy. Nonetheless, the policy makers acknowledged the role of forests and water catchment areas, wildlife management and the mining sector as valuable natural resources.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the environmental concerns gradually shifted to controlling human behavior with a view to achieving a balance between the development needs of the nation and enhancing the management of the environment. It is during this period that the government began the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programs. For instance, government stepped up efforts to strengthen institutions tasked with the responsibility of assessing and monitoring environmental changes that were likely to have harmful effects in the future. This was the first attempt by the government to apply the principles of environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The enactment of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) No.8 1999 that served as the main framework environment law, was among the steps in the country’s commitment towards environmental sustenance. This notwithstanding, an evaluation of the EMCA discloses that there are inadequacies in the Act in that it only addresses issues of environmental management in a sectional spectrum. As Kenya’s principal legal instrument on the environment, the EMCA is expected to address all aspects of the procedural and substantive process in relation to environment and development, including law enforcement and monitoring of compliance. However, strategies to achieve this have not been fully developed or implemented. Different factors that have contributed to these situations include:

  • lack of institutional capacity and resources to mobilize and link activities effectively within and between sectors,
  • specific environmental sectoral laws that do not adequately articulate the links between development, population and environmental concerns; and more often conflict with the EMCA, and
  • limited budgetary provisions to finance the effective implementation of environmental programs set out in national development plans.

In this regard, a more resolute solution would be the formulation of the National Environmental Policy whose primary objective would be to ensure compliance and enforcement of the law. Such a policy would also harmonize all approaches towards environmental management and strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration and coordination.

Currently, a far-reaching initiative towards an elaborate national environmental policy is contained in the Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1999 on Environment and Development. It advocates for the integration of environmental concerns into the national planning and management processes and provides guidelines for environmental sustainable development. The challenge of the document and guidelines is to critically link the implementation framework with statutory bodies namely, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forestry Service (KFS); the Public Complaints Committee (PCC) and the National Environmental Tribunal (NET).

A review of all the relevant regulatory and structural frameworks is therefore necessary in order to develop an implementation strategy that will ensure cross-sectoral relations within the various government agencies. In addition, while there have been positive efforts to date, there is an apparent lack of coordination, commitment and the political will to ensure that sectoral policies are implemented and adhered to. Most importantly though, is to have the National Environmental Policy that will harmonize the sectoral policies.

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19 Responses to “Kenya in Dire Need of a National Environmental Policy”

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The ministry of env& nat ressources finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place being the country’s steward on kenyas natural resources. Stringent rules means stifling resource exploitation vs laxity which has led in the past to wanton plunder and dereliction of renewable resources that can be well exploited with well crafted sustainable resource utilization policies. Somehow the misitry is always in a rush to put out fires. Funny thing is that all ministries have an obligation to consideration of environmental impact of their activities and thus have policies regarding env management and coordination ie miniature env ministries within themselves. You would think with this scenario there would be a cross fertilization of ideas that would result in fantastic env policies for the country, but alas that is not the case and our fate lies with the special team that will among other thing be looking to balance politics and resource redistribution( const review team). Quite tragic really.

Further incomplete formulation of
legislations such as for air, chemicals and
poor inplemention of the existing ones complicates the matter. NEMA does not play its role as it should!

The focus now should be to have an integrated national climate change and environmental policy that focuses on issues of adaptation, mitigation, technology development and deployment and investment and finacial flows. These should be rolled up into a sustainable development strategy looking at the short term (2008-2030), medium term (upto 2050) and long-term (upto 2100). Resource and capacity gaps notwhistanding, the development of a national strategy to address issues of climate change need to be done expeditiously. The observed extreme events and climate variability is just the beginning of possible more intense impacts to come. Though in most cases uncharacterised, vulnerability is palpably high. There is need to put numbers and figures of the investment and financial needs by sector and engage domestic and internationalfinacing mechanisms as mitigation and adaptation work gets under way in urnest.

there is need to implement all the Acts that would safeguard our environmental.i have a passion on healthy enviroment ie.green field and abudant water.I am exasperated by the manner in which people enchroaching forests and wet land.
ensure that bluegum trees are wiped out wetlands and alont the river banks.
there is need to form a group to create awereness on the negative effect of these trees.
in my place (Maua)is a place that exist along the nyambene hills and this is the first time to experience water shortage whereby four rivers have dried.Do something please or involve us in creating awereness on this issue

Beside the fact that kenya as whole lacks a National Environmental policy. One thing is clear,”We kenyans,are behaving like unwelcome guests in our own soil”. It’s time we take issue seriously and begin takin care of our environment.lets not wait for angel Gabriel to come and lecture us on how to conserve ‘it’,he aint gonna come!
Busuru Davilyne, Maseno univesity.

kenya have good policies in some instances which are deemed to protect our environment and dnatural resources but problems still continue.There is need to look and focus more on leaders even through international laws and treaties.

This is Kenya, a land blessed with many natural resources that u know.Problems inducts on da ground of lack of serious bodies to implement its mandates. Take an example of NEMA, a well organised organ with strong n prospectrus underlying policies. But the great question of the day is, ARE THE MANDATES IMPLEMENTED? Ofcourse failure is observed.We r the key changes of our environment n we need 2 act not by waiting upon law enforcers but following our humanitarian quo 2wards environment. Simon Mwass- Moi University.

Its a pure Joke that we do not have an environmental policy yet tourism is a major contributor to the economy. How do we even get the courage to advocate for the Carbon trade yet by lack of policy we are as good as the polluters. This is a disgrace and it only shows how far behind we are, God have mercy!

The Green Belt movement was started thirty years ago by Proffessor Wangari Maathai to deal with poverty. Planting tree, the 2004 Nobel Laureate observed, would solve the problem of deprivation. There is a connection between economic, social and environmental development. Ignoring one aspect only leads to reversed engines of economic development. The concept of sustainable development has been inculcated into policies such as the Economic Recovery Strategy. The challenge, however, remains in convincing policy makers to carry out concrete environmental management programs on the ground. The recommended move for Kenya would be a national policy on the environment that has well stipulated incentives to adhere to its requirements.

I think the National Environment policy should begin at the grassroots many people down there dont know anything about Environmental Conservation and secondly there needs to be an institution that can accomdate the lower cadre like certificates in Environmental Health.Business courses are being offered to everyone even those who had D- in their O Level.
Lets make environment our business and empower everyone.

There is need to develop a framework which will ensure that conflicting policies in the environment and climate change arena are harmonised and complied. The lead ministry responsible for this has to move very fast.
please let me have any progress towards this end from the ministry of env& nat ressources..as at 1/6/2011 please.

the polices are there but us kenyans we are the ones to implement them. let follow our heroine shoot. ie wangari

We as environmental planners see the need for the ministry of environment to set strategic plans in order to curb the threat to sustainable development in this nation.Laws and guidelines should be set and strictly adhered to by each and every member of the society.

policies are there but less known to the people who should be protecting it,mostly known to the makers.we have done much campaign on hiv n other diseases what about we do the same to our mother nature n protect it from harsh and unfriendly treatment?and wld like to read n know them were are they?

Its time to walk the talk. we need the political will to ensure environmental policies contained in EMCA-1999 are followed to the letter. We do not have to wait until we degrade the environment beyond resilience for us to come up with strategies to recover our ecosystems.

Am from uganda working at kulu teaching hospital

to have an effective and workable environmental policy in our country, we kenyans need to have a collective responsibility in protecting our environment. we have have many legislations addressing issues of the environment but still the gys vested with implementation of them seems not to be serious. if NEMA cannot see the leaking sewerage systems, if the environmental health officers cannot abate the many nuisances that are detrimental to our environment, then can you and me join hands and protect and safeguard our environment!


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