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Earth’s vibrations cause of new lake in Busia – researchers say

The emergence of a lake formed by a mass of sinking land in Munongo village in Busia County is as a result of its location between two seismically active Western and Eastern Rift valleys, researchers have revealed.

The swampy mass, which is approximately 200 square metres and surrounded by papyrus reeds on the Kenya-Ugandan border, has raised both excitement and fears among residents for the past three weeks.

Aquatic researchers from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute observed that the wetland basin exists above a confined aquifer with fissures running through the impervious rocks down to the aquifer(s).

“The water from the aquifer has slowly been feeding the wetland, supporting the biotic life. The expansive water mass being witnessed for the past three weeks has been necessitated by enlargement of the cracks, thus gushing out more water from the aquifer into the wetland,” said Christopher Aura.

The team consists of Dr Aura, the director, Ernest Yongo and Fredrick Guya.

The cause of the enlarged cracks is believed to be seismically generated.

On September 2016, there was an earthquake that was felt in several towns in western Kenya, in Vihiga, Bungoma and Busia counties.

The epicentre of the tremor that caused the deaths of at least 12 people was in Kagera, Tanzania.

Despite the myth that the wetland has been a continuous mass of vegetation, patches of water bodies have been in existence even before the lake came to be.

NO CAUSE FOR WORRY

The lake also exists within a perennial wetland lying at an altitude of about 1,200 metres above sea level and drains into River Sio.

The researchers also explained that the existence of Pistia stratiotes, an aquatic plant, indicates that it used to be a wetland.

Sylvanus Ndege, a village elder, informed the team that Busia town drains its municipal effluent into the wetland, which has sustained it.

“We believe the municipal effluent into the wetland and underground water seepage have perennially sustained the wetland,” he said.

Mr Guya tried to allay fears that homes would be submerged.

“The fear by locals that their homesteads may be [submerged] by the emerging lake during the rainy season is remote, considering that the wetland is connected to River Sio and any excess water will drain into the river.”

However, the experts said further hydrological surveys are needed to define the extent and rate of expansion.

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