Wetlands restoration programme to combat climate crisis
The government through Environment, Climate Change and Forestry departments has embarked on an ambitious programme of harnessing natural wetlands to buffer citizens against climate change impacts and boost resilience. Speaking during a visit to Kalacha and North Horr wetlands, Environment CS Soipan Tuya said the government will focus its attention on wetlands restoration for the next 10 years. "The restoration programme feeds into our 15 billion tree growing plan and the bigger plan for climate action," Ms Tuya said. She revealed that at least 8,000 wetlands have already been mapped out and will be fenced off to allow natural regeneration. The ministry will implement the programme in collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority and Kenya Forest Service. She added that the government will also recruit up to 100,000 youths, dubbed the ‘green army’, to help with the ecosystem restoration extension services around wetland and forest conservation across the country. Ms Tuya said the national security survey showed that climate change comes in second after terrorism as it triggers intercommunal conflicts in the country, thus calling for serious and enhanced climate actions. The CS added that the wetlands restoration programme feeds into the 15 billion tree-growing presidential directive, which is also in tandem with the ongoing global climate change discussions and greenhouse emissions cut strategies. Kenya’s ambitious climate actions have been necessitated by President William Ruto being the chairperson of the AU’s Committee on Climate Change, thus compelling him to lead from the front. The wetland restoration programme comes a little over a month ahead of the African Union Climate Change Summit slated for September in Nairobi. Wetlands have been hailed globally as carbon sinks, storing a vast amount of carbon and thus helping to mitigate climate change. The CS assured Kenyans of the achievability of the goal, saying the programme is already working in Marsabit County, where through the irrigation project funded by the African Development Bank, residents were able to reclaim 20 acres of the Chalbi Desert. Wetlands include any land that is saturated with water like marshes and mangroves along the coasts, floodplains and wet meadows along rivers and streams, vernal pools and prairie potholes. They play a vital role in retaining water on the landscape, maintaining water cycles and reducing temperature extremes. They also store water from precipitation and slowly release it to the surrounding environment, which can recharge groundwater aquifers and maintain atmospheric water cycles. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that it is not possible to limit global warming to 2°C without the use of negative emissions technologies. As such, seven categories of negative emissions technology have been identified including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, biochar, direct air capture, enhanced weathering, ocean fertilisation, and natural climate solutions such as afforestation and reforestation and soil carbon sequestration. The panel has drummed support for ecosystem conservation and ecological restoration in the mitigation of climate change both now and in the future due to their cost-effectiveness. Experts have warned that the continued tremendous wetland losses globally over the last 100–200 years have badly exposed the world to extreme weather events.