Environment court suspends Ruto order on lifting logging ban


Men build a stack of felled trees for charcoal burning.

Photo credit: AFP

The Environment and Land Court on Wednesday temporarily suspended President William Ruto’s move to lift the 2018 ban on logging.

Justice Oscar Angote further issued conservatory orders suspending any plans by the government to re-introduce the Shamba System on government forests, pending the determination of a case filed by the Law Society of Kenya.

The LSK moved to court arguing that logging activities have begun in earnest despite not being fully legally appraised of the effect and the impact of harvesting of trees on gazetted forests.

“Pending the hearing and the determination of the application and the suit herein, conservatory orders do issue retraining the Respondents either by themselves or through their agents, servants, employees, proxies or any other person from licensing, permitting, allowing or in any other way exploiting forest resources,” the order issued by the court read.

President Ruto announced the lifting of the ban on July 2 while addressing a gathering at Molo in Nakuru County, saying it was aimed at benefiting the families and persons who live near the forests to enhance their livelihood through the felling, cutting and selling of trees.

“The directives issued have neither provided the scientific reasons, research, policy directives, specific environmental assessment impact, nor the public participation done in the areas likely to be affected by the removal of the ban on logging activities by the state,” the LSK said.

In addition, the Constitution provides that the decisions of the President ought to be in writing, the LSK said, adding that the same has not been done, opening a chance for abuse, uncertainty and exploitation however well intended.

The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry had explained in a statement that the lifting of the ban on logging in public plantation forests was informed by an inventory of forest plantations.

The statement said the inventory was undertaken by a Multi–Agency Taskforce and it revealed a total 26,000 hectares of mature and over–mature forest plantation stocks.

“These materials, if not removed, would eventually die and rot with the attendant colossal loss in revenue, which would otherwise be used in restoration of degraded public forest areas,” the statement said.

The Ministry added that by resuming logging operations, the government seeks to create job opportunities, spur economic growth in the rural areas, and improve the livelihoods of millions of individuals and communities that depend on forests.

“The principle of allowable cut dictates that the number of trees to be removed annually should be equal to the number of trees to be planted,” the statement added.

However, the LSK said the destruction of forests through unchecked logging, degazettement of areas under forests, and re-introduction of Shamba System will have a devastating impact on Kenya’s water towers which are increasingly drying up.

The LSK said a Taskforce Report of 2018 attributed the harvesting of trees in public forests as the lead contributor to an annual reduction in water availability of approximately 62 million cubic metres, translating to an economic loss to the economy of over $19 million, and has the potential to roll back strides towards the attainment of Vision 2030.

The court directed the case to be mentioned on August 14.