“How can we be so arrogant? The planet is, was and always will be stronger than us. We can’t destroy it: if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing. Why don’t they start talking about not letting the planet destroy us?
Because ‘saving the planet’ gives a sense of power, action and nobility. Whereas ‘not letting the planet destroy us’ might lead to feelings of despair and impotence, and to a realization of just how limited our capabilities are”
- The Winner Stands Alone, Paulo Coelho
According the Climate change Act No. 11 of 2016 (the Act), “climate change” means a change in the climate system which is caused by significant changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases as a consequence of human activities and which is in addition to natural climate change that has been observed during a considerable period.
Sustainable development features on the list of the national values and principles of governance in the Constitution of Kenya.
Article 69 0f the Constitution of Kenya provides for individual and state obligations in respect of the environment. The state on one hand is obliged to ensure sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources, and ensure the equitable sharing of the accruing benefits; work to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least ten per cent of the land area of Kenya; protect and enhance intellectual property in, and indigenous knowledge of, biodiversity and the genetic resources of the communities; encourage public participation in the management, protection and conservation of the environment; protect genetic resources and biological diversity; establish systems of environmental impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment; eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment; and utilise the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the people of Kenya.
Individuals on the other hand are obliged to cooperate with State organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment and ensure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.
The constitutional provisions are substantiated by several Acts of Parliament such as The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999), Water Act (2002), and the Climate Change Act (2016) all provide a regulatory framework for matters regarding climate change and related purposes.
Is the law doing enough to ensure that the environment is protected, conserved and kept for the use of future generations?
Monday the 16th, 2017 The Standard Newspaper front page read, “Starving Nation: Horrifying fate of misery as hunger and drought bite”. The sub-headline is above a large picture of women in the hunger stricken Chesakam Village, sorting wild fruits for their food.
Kenya has been constantly hit by drought, a culmination of climate change. In years past, such droughts as the country is currently facing were not a common occurrence. From around June 2016, up to now (January 2017), the country has been hit by ground cracking droughts that have seen the death of livestock, the reduction in water levels and unprecedented hunger. It is not comforting that the ministry in charge of disaster preparedness did not anticipate this. Only 10% of the residents in the area are receiving relief food. People, citizens of Kenya, are dying of hunger and thirst. “The area has been hit hard by water shortage, prompting residents to resort to traditional killer wells where residents, mostly women and the young men, risk their lives to fetch water. Each well has a depth of between five and ten metres. When women want to fetch water for domestic use or when herders want to fetch water for livestock, at least 4 people are forced to line up from the bottom of the well to the top so that they can pass water containers from one person to another”, the Standard reports. As if that is not enough, corruption is eating at the fabric of our society, even in matters concerning climate change. For example, in Baringo County, it was announced in 2015 that 100 boreholes had been sunk. However, according to the Standard Newspaper, this was a “white elephant . . . boreholes were only drilled and never equipped”.
Effects of drought
Drought is the mother of many bad things. It causes a reduction in food supply thus inflicting hunger upon the population. Thirst also sets in sooner because other reduction in water levels. This in turn leads to the death of both animals and humans. Animals die because of lack of pasture and water. In pastoral communities, these deaths cause a renewal of conflicts that arise out of cattle rustling. When there is not enough water, disease because easily spread. For example, people may choose not to wash their hands to save water. This will lead to diarrhea. Diarrhea accounts for majority of deaths in infants, thus there is a chance that there will be an increase in the infant mortality rate. Drought also causes an increase in food prices because of a high demand and a very low supply of food commodities. No doubt, a lot heat makes people crazy. It then follows that drought causes an increase in crime rate.
A lot needs to be done. People must be encouraged to use renewable energy sources at work, school, and at home. We must do something to save ourselves. Deforestation must be discouraged and legal penalties imposed upon the perpetrators. Industrialization must be regulated to ensure that carbon emissions are not disastrous. We must learn to store food for consumption in times of drought and heavy rains. This means that we must find ways to preserve agricultural products. We must devise ways to finish the issue of climate change, if not; climate change is seriously here to finish us!
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 1, Issue 3 of January 20th, 2017
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