The Implications of Property Rights for Wetlands Management in Kenya

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"Wetlands are an important ecosystem in Kenya. They are sites of exceptional biodiversity, have enormous social and economic value. However despite their utility, they continue to be impacted and degraded and lost due to pressure from agricultural and development activities. They end up being converted to these uses. The conversion is due to the fact that wetlands are viewed as wastelands. "Kenya is party to the Ramsar Convention and as such is under an obligation to take legal and policy measures to protect its wetlands. These include the actions stipulated in the Ramsar Convention. In addition the country has laws and policies that seek to address the conservation and wise use of wetlands. These include the environmental management and coordination Act, the Water Act and the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act. "Despite the existence of these laws, wetlands continue to be degraded. This paper takes the position that the success of efforts to conserve and wisely use wetlands needs to appreciate the implications of property rights regimes. Using case study experiences from Yala Swamp, where a US company Dominion got authority to convert wetlands into Rice farming, this paper shall demonstrate how efforts to conserve wetlands are being frustrated in Kenya due to lack of adequate protection of property rights. "The paper shows how property rights can be regulated and reconceptualised so as to guarantee the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The paper argues that wetlands are best managed as a public good and that tool like the Public trust Doctrine can be properly applied to ensure that wetlands are conserved and wisely used."
wetlands, property rights, conservation, IASC