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L Naivasha, the ailing giant on its death bed

Dan Kaburu @KaburuDan

Early morning at the Central Landing shore of Lake Naivasha, fishermen slowly push their boats into the lake to eke out a living for yet another day.

While in the lake, images of the rising sun make the lake beautiful while a panoramic view of Mt Longonot, from a distance, gives a breathtaking ambience. Pelicans, water ducks and other bird species swim and hover around the 139-square-kilometre freshwater lake, as hippos dive in and out of the water. At the shores of the lake, buffaloes, gazelles and other animals graze gracefully.

Our goal was to access where river Malewa drains 90 per cent of its water into the lake, making it the most critical tributary of Lake Naivasha. We get to the mouth of the tributary after a 30-minute boat ride from the Central Landing beach.

Erected dykes

The lake has been facing major threats from human activity, among others, encroachment by private landowners at the shores, pollution from surrounding flower farms, raw sewage from Naivasha town, global warming and the invasive water hyacinth weed.

The water volume entering the lake from River Malewa seemed normal. However, this could change should the planned construction of a mega-dam upstream the river, whose source is the Aberdare Ranges, be actualised. There are claims the plan to construct the dam is to reduce the volume of water entering the lake, thus create unoccupied land that is being eyed by some influential individuals for private use.

In addition, the situation could get worse for wildlife and other species that depend on the lake, should the Water Resource Authority continue with its plan to review the lake’s boundary by 4.8 metres above sea level, a move that has been opposed by conservationists, surrounding communities and other stakeholders.

According to the National Environment Complaints Committee secretary John Chumo,  the plan by Water Resources Authority will expose more than 300 acres of land to land grabbers should the review take place.

Wildlife and aquatic life that depend on the lake are already on the receiving end as some landowners bordering the lake have erected dykes to prevent hippos from accessing their farms, which has seen increased human-wildlife conflicts.

Fishermen and fishmongers at the Central Landing beach have raised concern over construction of the dam, saying the project will worsen their economic status.

Pledges made

However, Water Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui said construction of a dam in river Malewa will not reduce the volume of water draining into the lake, but instead increase the water volume in the river because the dam will only harvest run-off water.

Chelugui also said there are no plans to review the riparian land boundary as it requires public participation and change in the law to do that. Water Resources Authority has, however, not responded to reports of their plans to review the boundary.

Recently, Kenya hosted the blue economy conference that brought global stakeholders to Nairobi. At the end of the three days conference, pledges were made on how nations will fund the blue economy, but not much was said on the need to conserve lakes, rivers, oceans, wetlands and water catchment areas that the blue economy depends on.

Much money may be pumped into conferences such as the one recently held in Nairobi but if there are no applicable commitments and political will from global leaders on conserving water bodies, little or no gains will be achieved from the forums.

Kenya’s lakes are staring at extinction at an alarming rate, however, laxity seems to bedevil those tasked with spearheading their survival.

A few months ago, People Daily highlighted the state of Lake Kamnarok in Baringo county, Lake Turkana and Lake Magadi, but up to now, there is nothing to write home about on measures taken to address the concerns.

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