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Environmentalists warn arsonists over wildfires

Environmentalists in Embu County have raised concern over the increased cases of wildfire at Njukiri forest saying that it’s threatening the existence of the 495 acres of forest located in Embu West Manyatta Constituency.

Njukiri Forest Community Association Chairman Simon Kangiri said that there have been three failed attempts to set the forest on fire.

The forest community association chairman said that Njukiri forest was finally set on fire on the fourth attempt but due to the swift response of the people living around the forest, they managed to put off the fire after it had burnt six hectares of the forest.

Kangiri who thanked the members of the public for their swift action said that were it not for the swift action of the members of the public more acres of the forest could have been destroyed leading to a big loss.

The forest community association chairman said the damage caused by the fire is estimated to be Sh 6m adding that it will take decades to restore the burnt area to its earlier state.

“Some unknown people have been brewing illegal alcohol from Njukiri forest for a long time. Two weeks ago, they were chased out of the forest by the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) officials and due to that, the unknown people promised to retaliate. We highly suspect that they are the main suspects behind the burning of the six acres of Njukiri forest,” disclosed Kangiri.

Kangiri condemned the incident and called on the Kenya Forest Services and Kenya Wildlife Services to initiate investigations into the burning of the forest and ensure that the people behind the act are arrested and arraigned in court.

Confirming the fire incident at Njukiri forest, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) officer in charge of Njukiri forest Karuri Kathongo said that unknown people burnt down six acres of Njukiri forest and that they have already launched investigations to ensure that the culprits behind the fire incident are arrested and prosecuted.

The KWS officer also added that they have increased patrols in the forest to prevent any further destruction of the forest.

He said that Njukiri forest is a water catchment area and that any case of burning it down put the county at risk in terms of water accessibility.

He also added that Njukiri forest houses the famous Camp Ndunda which has been both a local and International tourist attraction destination adding that any act of burning Njukiri forest will deny Embu County the privilege of having an international tourist attraction centre.

He added that the forest’s natural flora and fauna provide a perfect getaway for those seeking a peaceful and quiet environment during their leisure times in the county.

The KWS officer said that community involvement in the conservation of forests in Kenya has yielded fruits and called on the members of the public living around Njukiri forest to raise an alarm in case they sense any act of an individual wanting to burn down the forest.

Kathongo warned that under the forest act, someone found culpable of burning the forest risks serving a jail term not exceeding six months or a fine equivalent to the damage caused or both fine and imprisonment.

By Justus Anzaya

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