A five-year-old ban on mangrove logging in Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa and Tana River counties will continue.
The ban was imposed in 2018 to fight environmental destruction, protect water towers and mitigate the effects of drought across the country.
But it was lifted in Lamu County in January 2019 after the government considered the plight of local communities, who largely depended on mangroves for their livelihoods.
The National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC) now says the ban will continue in the other coastal counties because illegal mangrove harvesting is still going on.
Mangroves, forests found only in the Coast region, play an important role in the environment and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“We have been doing our research in partnership with private and other government agencies and found that in Shirazi in Kwale, 220 hectares of mangroves have been cut down. [If this trend continues], we might even reach 800 hectares,” said NECC official Isabella Masinde.
Ms Masinde spoke in Kwale County, where she led locals in planting mangrove seedlings.
Also present at the event were representatives from the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and mining company Base Titanium.
KFS Conservator Blessings Maghanga said since the ban was imposed there had been significant improvement in the forest cover.
“Even though the ban is ongoing, we have observed that it is successful,” he said.
But he said the ban could soon be lifted if the Ministry of Environment responds to a status report submitted to it.
Mr Maghanga explained that if the ban is lifted, logging would be allowed but under rules such as identifying the mangrove offtakes so that the ecosystem and environment are not damaged.
This comes as KFS continues to educate and sensitise communities living on the Coast on the importance of conserving mangroves, including encouraging them to form groups to protect the environment.
The benefits of conserving the important forests were already showing, said Mwanatuma Mohammed, the chairperson of Siwema Jikaze, a women’s conservation group with 40 members.
The women have planted 200,000 mangrove seedlings.
“We have been growing mangroves and selling one seedling for between Sh30 and Sh50 to organisations. Mangroves are breeding points for our fish and this helps us as a community. It also traps carbon,” she said, adding that the returns have helped locals educate their children.
Mangrove conservation efforts, said Nema Kwale Director Godfrey Wafula, will not only help the environment but also boost ecotourism and improve the economy through improved fishing in the area.
Msambweni Deputy County Commissioner Kipkoech Lutiatia urged residents to report any illegal activities in the forests such as logging to the nearest police station or area chief.