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Talks to save Lake Kenyatta begin

In the past one month alone, 15 hippos have died, with their carcasses lying on the drying lake.

The lake is also dotted with shells of millions of dead snails.

The Lamu County Government, in conjunction with environmentalists and other conservation groups in the region, have begun talks with the aim of saving Lake Kenyatta in Mpeketoni Division which is drying up at an alarming rate.

Recently, Lake Kenyatta, one of Kenya’s oldest natural fresh water lakes, began drying up, something that is threatening human and wildlife populations that have for ages depended on it for water supply.

Speaking when he led a delegation of stakeholders from the county government and environmentalists from World Wide Fund and Lake Kenyatta Water Users Association, among others, on a tour of the lake, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy blamed increased human settlement around the lake for the environmental disaster.

He said the water ways which used to feed the lake have been interfered with by human beings.

He said the increased number of cattle from neighbouring counties of Tana River, Garissa and Wajir, especially at this moment when the region is experiencing a dry spell, is a key contributor to water body drying up.

Mr Timamy said it was a pity that a lake which has existed for thousands of years could dry up because of human interference.

The governor said it is sad to see such a crucial resource on the verge of extinction and said they would no longer tolerate it.

FACT-FINDING MISSION

He said the county government will work hand in hand with WWF and other stakeholders from Mpeketoni and the surrounding areas in a fact-finding mission that will ensure the situation is contained.

“I am worried by what I have seen at Lake Kenyatta. The Lake is shrinking at an alarming rate that is even threatening the natural resources in our county. Human beings are growing rice in the water ways and wetlands, while cattle in thousands come to drink water in the lake every day. That’s the greatest reason that has led to the current state of affairs at the lake. We need to do something to save our lake,” said Mr Timamy.

He also called on the Kenya Wildlife Services to do research and find out if there could be other reasons that is killing the animals in the region apart from the drying wells.

WWF Lamu and Tana Landscape Programme Manager Mr John Bett said they were ready to partner with the county government and other stakeholders to find ways of rehabilitating the lake and bring back the lost glory.

Mr Bett said it is unfortunate that people continue to invade the wetlands and practice farming in the area which feeds the lake with water.

He said it is discouraging that a big population of the area depends on the lake for survival ranging from Mpeketoni to Mkunubi but little is being done to conserve the resource.

He said over four million cattle drink water from the lake each year which makes it the most reliable lake in the county.

WATER INSECURITY

He said there is urgent need to find a way of gazetting the lake which will help in addressing the water insecurity.

“We need to come together and introduce short term measures to save the lake.

“There is need for the lake to be fenced so as to reduce the influx of cattle that cause siltation,” said Mr Bett.

Mr Benson Kariuki, the chairman of Lake Kenyatta Water Users Association, an organisation that controls a Sh80 million water project done by Coast Water Service Board to supply water to over 5,000 residents in the area said they have had challenges in the last eight years.

“After the El Nino rains of 1997, the lake’s water level rose to 12 metres. But today, the water level has gone down drastically. In addition, the water has turned salty due to salinity. Hippos can no longer live in the lake. Even fish have problems. We urge the national and county government to intervene and demarcate the lake and protect it,’’ said Mr Kariuki.

Lake Kenyatta is estimated to have covered a stretch of 3.7 kilometres square but today what remains is less than 1.5 kilometre square and the drying rate is alarming.

The Lake which is named after the first President of the Republic of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta is located on the northern Coast of Kenya, 230km north of Malindi and 60km from Lamu Island and covers an area of 496 square kilometres.

The lake used to be home to some of the world’s unique birds species due to a conducive climate and biodiversity.

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