Top Kenyan nature reserve under threat
Huge sugar plantation would devastate Tana Delta, home to dozens of bird species
Sunday 28 October 2007
Little disturbs the tranquillity of the Tana Delta. As the deep orange sun sets above Kenya's largest wetlands hippos wallow in the shallows, crocodiles slide off the banks into the brown river, while terns and whistling teals circle above. It is one of Kenya's most important natural reserves and very soon it could all be gone.
Plans have been drawn up to turn part of the delta into Kenya's largest sugar plantation – an 80,000 acre area that could produce 100,000 tons of sugar a year and bring 20,000 jobs to a region where most people do not have jobs. Conservationists are alarmed. They warn that the plantation will destroy the wetlands and with it the habitats of dozens of species of bird includingAllen's Gallinules..
More than 15,000 birds from 69 species were counted on a single day earlier this year in an area comprising just 15 per cent of the wetlands. The coastline is home to endangered marine turtles, while two endangered primates can be found in the forests that line the wetlands – the red colobus and the crested mangabey. "To put sugar plantations right into the heart of the Tana Delta will spell the end of the delta," said Colin Jackson of the Mwamba Bird Observatory. "It will be a natural disaster if this development is allowed to go ahead the way it is currently planned."
The Tana Delta stretches for 50 miles inland from the northern coast of Kenya, between Lamu and Malindi. To reach the Mbililo lake at its heart requires a bumpy two-hour journey along dirt tracks, followed by two hours on a motor boat through reeds and under thickets up the Tana River. Just what it is that will be lost is only clear when viewed from the air. The lush, rich greens of the wetlands continues for mile upon mile. Thousands of cattle graze along the banks, and flocks of waterfowl soar from the river towards the pink clouds above.
But amid the beauty there is desperate poverty. Around three-quarters of the delta's residents live on less than $1 a day. Jobs are scarce, clean water and electricity are non-existent.
Mumias Sugar Company, the company behind the scheme, which is backed by the regional development authority and the Kenyan government, has promised to bring jobs and investment to the delta. It also said the project will bring roads, water, electricity, schools and hospitals.
Local residents are divided. "The government hasn't brought us anything," said Ibrahim Nossir, a father of three. "If we refuse this we might not get anything else. How will we pay our school fees for our children if we do not agree?"
But local conservation officials believe too much will be lost. "If the plantation comes we will lose all of our natural resources," said Ibrahim Hiribae, the secretary of the Lower Tana Delta Conservation Trust. "What if the project fails? We will have nothing left."
Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments
Plastic rubbish heaps at sea pose bigger threat to Earth than climate change, claims ocean expert
Silence to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of last ever passenger pigeon
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK
Faking it: how animals trick their way to a better life
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
- 5 Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...
£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...