East African conservation news update – EALA starts regionwide consultations on new Ecosystems Bill

CONSULTATIONS COMMENCE ON EAST AFRICAN ECO SYSTEMS BILL

Members of the East African Legislative Assembly have started their region wide public consultations ahead of hearings by the full assembly about the pending Trans Boundary Ecosystems Bill. The  East African Community member states share a range of ecosystems across the common borders, including several national parks but also lakes, foremost Lake Victoria and it is especially outside the protected areas where the need for joint protective measures has become a top priority.

Stakeholders in all member states are presently providing input during meetings in the respective capitals but also on selected sites the EALA committee members have proposed to visit to receive first hand information on the deteriorating status of such ecosystems, where actions on one side of the border, or no action as has been the case in the past affect the ‘other side’ of the border too. Notably the Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources Committee has a wider understanding how unchecked exploitation and pollution affect key areas of East Africa’s economy by impacting on the ability to grow food but also protect the resources for wildlife and nature based tourism, which brings by conservative estimates over 3 billion US Dollars into East Africa every year.

Lake pollution and silting up are two areas the EALA members are said to be particularly keen about, having singled out the Lake Jipe area which is shared between Kenya and Tanzania and subsequently many questions the committee members are asking are focused on the protection of water towers, unchecked extraction of water from streams and rivers reducing the inflow into lakes.

Conservation stakeholders are also expected to raise the issue of the controversial Serengeti Highway project by the Tanzanian government, which is expected to have a massive impact on the annual wildebeest migration between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya but also the equally controversial soda ash project planned for Lake Natron, another ecosystem in Tanzania linked to the Kenyan Lake Magadi area. Using the region’s lawmakers appears to be a preferred option at present as the national parliament in Tanzania is dominated by the ruling CCM party, which government is behind the reckless drive to ‘modernize and industrialise’ without any apparent sensitivity or much public concern towards the impact of such major projects on the environment and the fallout for protected areas and tourism.

Consultations are due to continue until the 15th of May after which the Committee for Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources will prepare their report of findings before the proposed bill heads for deliberations in the East African Legislative Assembly.

Watch this space.

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