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Unique Kenyan Forest At Risk

…from oil and gas exploration

The largest remaining protected fragment of the East African Coastal forest – Arabuko-Sokoke Forest - is facing a new threat: seismic surveys for oil and gas.Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest intact piece of natural East African Coastal forest left in Kenya. Home to four globally endangered mammals, six globally threatened birds and the world-famous Kipepeo Butterfly Project, it is considered the second most important forest on the African mainland for bird species in terms of diversity and uniqueness. It is globally recognised as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, Endemic Bird Area and Global Biodiversity Hotspot. The forest has been placed on Kenya's candidate list for UNESCO World Heritage status because of its exceptional features.Oil company CAMAC and its sub-contractor BGP are planning to survey the potential for oil and gas under block L16, which it was allocated in Kilifi County.“The seismic surveys will do outright damage to the forest,” said Dr Paul Matiku, Chief Executive of Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner). “The transect lines cut through the forest.”There is concern that there has not been proper consultation about the proposed surveys for oil and gas, and that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and its approval by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) did not follow required community participation and public consultation. This violates the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) which calls for a participatory approach in an EIA. Yet the proponents of the project claim to have carried out an EIA in February 2013.“We are not against development or finding new sources of energy. Nature Kenya’s position and that of other stakeholders is that the EIA is not credible. So a new EIA needs to be done in line with EMCA regulations,” said Dr Matiku.“The dynamiting as proposed by the oil company will affect everything from the bees to the elephants. Elephants are known to run away from seismic testing, and in Arabuko-Sokoke they can’t run far, as the forest is fenced. In addition, opening up the forest will make it more accessible to poachers and tree-loggers as it has in the Selous when transects where cleared in Tanzania’s largest national park three decades ago.”The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Adjacent Dwellers Association (ASFADA), Gede Community Forest Association, Jilore Community Forest Association, Sokoke Community Forest Association, Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner), A Rocha Kenya, the Kenya Forests Working Group and others have appealed to the National Environment Management Authority, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and the Kilifi County Government to stop any seismic survey or drilling within the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest immediately.Local communities as well as local, national and international conservation groups have a keen interest in this forest. The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest provides critical services for the community, the County and the nation including: water catchment, soil conservation, climate moderation, carbon sequestration and sources of livelihood for the local community.

Martin Fowlie

19th November 2014