National Assembly’s Environment Committee wants Karura Forest to be renamed after the late Kenyan political and environmental activist Wangari Maathai.
The Committee held successful deliberations on the renaming of the forest with officials from the Environment ministry led by CS Keriako Tobiko on Tuesday.
Earlier, Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan had petitioned the House to recognise the critical role Prof Maathai played in the conservation of Kenya’s natural resources.
The lawmaker proposed the renaming of the forest in honor of Prof Maathai’s selfless efforts to protect the forest from land grabbers.
“That, on account of Maathai’s tireless efforts and dedication, Karura forest is today a thriving natural endowment that serves as a home to many animals and plant varieties,” he said.
“It also provides Appropriations-in-Aid revenue for the government, through fees obtained for its therapeutic benefits that attract thousands of runners, walkers, cyclists, campers and tourists every year.”
Kahawa Tungu understands that the executive arm of government supported the petition in the Tuesday engagement.
The committee resolved to work on recommendations to initiate the whole process of renaming the forest.
“They have no objection. The government is excited to honour Wangari Maathai. As a committee, we will conclude the petition recommending the same,” Environment Committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki told a local daily.
On his part, Tobiko said the ministry supports the lawmakers’ bid and will escalate it further.
“To this end, in recognition of constitutional and legal requirements for due process and public participation, there is need for the ministry to consult further with Cabinet and engage Kenyans in public participation before this can be done,” Tobiko said.
For the government to be able to rename the forest, the Forest Act must be amended.
Karura Forest, which was gazetted in 1932, is located in the northern part of Nairobi city. At 1,041 hectares (2,570 acres), it is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world.
The forest managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife found in Nairobi.
Prof Maathai died on September 25, 2011.
The founder of the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Other facilities named after her include Wangari Maathai Road formerly Nairobi Forest Road and the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi.