Marking World Environment Day in Kenya

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UN inaugurated World Environment Day in 1972 but it was first celebrated in 1974 under the slogan “Only One Earth”. When 5th June was designated as the World Environment Day, the creation of UN Environment followed suite with Nairobi as its Headquarter.

Topics of concern have since evolved to incorporate sustainable consumption as well as the illegal trade of wildlife. All the same, the environmental issues remain first on the agenda.

How does each topic concern Kenya as World Environment Day is celebrated for the 43rd year?

Sustainable Consumption
The various drivers of consumption when delved into, paint a bleak image in regards to the effects on the environment.

  • The global population has doubled from 1970 whereas that of Kenya has more than quadrupled.
  • The intensification in cropland to satiate the growing population has resulted in 80% of freshwater being used.
  • Kenya’s CO2 emissions have increased five times from 3megatons in 1970 to 15 in 2015. On the other hand, the global CO2 emissions more than doubled to 36000 megatons in the same period.

Environmental Issues
In 1987, Nairobi was placed on the environment protection map when Wangari Maathai was the first one to be awarded the “Environmental Champion”. Her protests in opposing the skyscraper project in Uhuru Park as well as championing for reforestation across Kenya won her multiple awards including the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Despite Wangari Maathai’s achievements, environmental concerns continue to threaten the nation.

  • By damming Omo River for irrigation of sugar plantations,  Lake Turkana is projected to be at 50% of its capacity
  • Lake Victoria has declined from the decrease in catchment areas and the hyacinth infestation
  • Mount Kenya’s glaciers have drastically reduced to 3 from 16
Glaciers Mt. Kenya

Glaciers Mt. Kenya

Illegal Wildlife Trade
Since the banning of ivory trade as well as some cultural traditions that involved the killing of lions and Nile Crocodiles, several initiatives have taken root to protect the endangered species. These include the annual Lewa Marathon and Rhino Charge. Both seek to safeguard the black and white rhinos from extinction.

Safaricom Lewa Marathon 2016 Participant

Safaricom Lewa Marathon 2016 Participant

Nevertheless, poaching persists due to the evolving methods of killing wildlife, light jail terms as well as the lucrative ivory trade in Asia. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi is an orphanage centre for elephants and rhinos that have been rescued after the illegal killings of their parents.

On the other hand, overfishing with smaller mesh has resulted in over 300 species of indigenous fish being declared extinct on Lake Victoria.

To demonstrate ivory trade is illegal in Kenya, President Kenyatta, who set fire 105 tonnes of ivory in 2016, said: “for us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.” This has proved effective as Kenya is the only country in East Africa with a growing population of elephants between the years 2009 and 2015.

Elephant population trends

Elephant population trends over the past 10 years. Red declining >5%/year, orange declining 2-5%/year, yellow declining or increasing <2%/year, pale green increasing at 2-5%/year, dark green increasing >5%/year. (Map by the Great Elephant Census)

In March, the government of Kenya announced the ban on the manufacture and use of paper bags to take effect on August 28th, 2017. This move will reduce the environmental degradation caused by the plastic bags. On your next monthly shopping, don’t forget to carry your own reusable grocery’s bags.

NEMA, The National Environment Management Authority, has identified several Green Points in all 47 counties of Kenya. The goal is to fund and develop ecotourism, clean energy, and environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.

3-Rs to Mark on World Environment Day
As individuals, here are practical ways in observing conservation of the environment in everyday life:–

  • Reduce your energy output by buying electronics with better energy efficient grading. Not forgetting the water consumption by fixing leaking pipes and fetching water to brush your teeth.
  • Refuse to buy that which is harmful to the environment such as cleaning agents and GMO food. Also, do you have to own the latest smartphone, sound device, laptop, or camera?
  • Recycle the plastic, glass, fabric, electronics and above all, those dead-beat shoes that you don’t wear anymore. Additionally, if on a road trip, carry a waste bag for your litter as wild animals easily ingest plastics.



Social media has made it possible for everyone to participate in World Environment Day 2017. Running with the slogan, ‘I am with nature’ #WithNature, participants are to upload a photo or video of their favourite place in nature. These will then be shared at exhibitions across the various UN Headquarters where senior political people will view them.


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