Help for forests and rivers pledged to new Kenyan government by UN environment chief

Klaus Toepfer and Newton Kulundu Hold First Face to Face Talks
Nairobi, 21 January 2003 - A project, aimed at better managing the land and water resources flowing from Mount Kenya, is being planned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The project, designed to tackle soil erosion polluting the Tana River and clogging up dams and reservoirs, was discussed today at a meeting between Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, and Newton Kulundu, Kenya's new Environment Minister.

The multi-million-dollar project, which is seeking international support, will also back efforts by the Kenyan government to reduce illegal water removal in the rivers and streams feeding the Tana River.

The scheme aims to work with local communities and farmers to balance the need for agricultural production with those of wildlife in and around the Mount Kenya area.

The meeting, which also included Assistant Environment Minister Wangari Maathai reviewed new, preliminary data on the condition of the Aberdare Mountain range.

There has been growing concern that the Aberdares, whose rivers and streams provide Nairobi's drinking water, are in an even worse environmental condition than Mount Kenya as a result of deforestation and the planting of unsuitable, non-native, trees.

After the meeting, Mr. Toepfer said: " We met with Minister Kulundu and Assistant Minister Maathai to offer help and advice on the myriad of environmental and developmental issues facing the new Kenyan administration. We also expressed our interest in assisting and implementing projects to rehabilitate Kenya's forests and rivers. One of UNEP's key skills is in environmental assessment. Our report on the Aberdares, carried out in cooperation with organizations such as the Kenya Wildlife Service, will be published soon".

"It will outline in great detail the precise problems facing this important natural resource, from the levels of charcoal extraction to the rates of deforestation, and offer concrete proposals as to how the declining situation can be reversed".

Mr. Toepfer told the ministers that the project for Mount Kenya, which ranges from schemes to help coffee farmers use water more wisely to initiatives to reduce soil erosion from roads, will be submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington DC for approval at the end of January.

The GEF is a multi-billion-dollar fund that invests in projects in developing countries covering issues such as land degradation and protection of the ozone layer.

The meeting also addressed Kenya's participation in UNEP's Governing Council. In early February, environment ministers from across the world will come to UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi, to discuss how best to implement the plan of action drawn up at last year's Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

For More Information, please Contact Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-mail: