image courtesy of Vrije Universiteit Brussel
A recently approved plan by the Kenyan government to expand sugarcane cultivation for biofuels in the Tana River Delta will devastate this important coastal wetland, according to The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The plan calls for more than 80 square miles of wetland to be destroyed and replaced with sugarcane plantations.
Wildlife and Human Livelihoods Threatened
At risk is refuge area for 350 species of birds, lion, elephants, sharks and reptiles, as well as important dry-season cattle grazing area for local farmers. A study undertaken by RSPB and Nature Kenya found that the ecological benefits provided by the delta "defied valuation" and the plan would cause "irreversible loss" of ecosystem services such as flood prevention, carbon sequestration and provision for traditional medicines and food.
Environment Assessment of Plan "Poor"
According to Paul Matiku, executive director for Nature Kenya, "The environmental assessment for the scheme was poor yet the government has defied even those very modest recommendations. We refuse to accept that this decision is final. The development must be stopped at all costs."
Project Income Less Than Loss of Ecosystem Services
Income for the sugarcane cultivation is projected to be £1.25 million over the next 20 years, but the RSPB/Nature Kenya report reports that loss of revenue from farming, fishing and tourism could be as high as £30 million in the same period.
With it's headwaters on Mount Kenya and discharging into the Indian Ocean near Kipini, at over 1000km long, the Tana River is the longest in Kenya.
Apart from the ongoing discussion on a number of fronts of the wisdom of expanding first generation biofuels production, this seems a perfect instance illustrating the failings of conventional economics to account for ecological services. Isn't it time yet for Ecological Economics?
:: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
:: Nature Kenya
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