Daily Nation (Kenya)
Researchers have come up with a strategy that seeks to address the degradation of major lakes in Kenya.
The researchers, under the Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM), have focused the strategy on lakes Victoria, Nakuru and Baringo which are significant water sources and support a critical part of the ecosystem.
It is also informed by the resolution of the 11th World Lakes Conference of 2005.
Among the factors that have led to the formation of the strategy include the recent swelling of lakes, especially those located in the Rift valley, and pollution.
Scientists are yet to come up with an explanation to the rising water levels in these lakes.
There have been various attempts to explain the phenomenon.
A researcher at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said most of the geothermal activities, especially in Nakuru begun in 2012, the same period when water levels started rising.
“This could be a case of tampering with nature during the extraction of geothermal [power] which begun at around 2012, a period where we started experiencing a rise in water levels,” said the scientist.
Some of the lakes that have so far reported high water levels include Nakuru, Baringo, Bogoria, Elementaita and Naivasha.
The ILBM strategy has linked degradation to human activities such as mechanised farming which has caused erosion.
“Poor land use along the lake shores has caused erosion and the rains sweep the soil into the lakes causing siltation. This has made most of the water levels in some lakes to go beyond their normal range,” said ILBM National Coordinator Jackson Raini.
The swelling of the lake has also affected flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park, making it lose its best attraction for foreigners and locals.
In a good day, the lake’s shoreline would be painted pink with more than 300,000 birds.
Most of the foreigners visiting the park for the first time are eager to see the birds but with the migrations, it is a big blow to one of the major revenue generators in the tourism sector in the country.
Scientists under ILBM have been holding a series of conferences supported by The International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC) to deliberate on matters surrounding degradation of lakes.
The researchers are currently focusing on seven lakes which are Nakuru, Baringo, Nyanza Gulf, Turkana, Lake Jipe, Chala and Lake Kenyatta.
Lakes Bogoria and Baringo have experienced flooding in the past two months with some houses being submerged.
This has also forced the KWS management to divert some roads that have become impassable as they have been submerged by water from the swelling lakes which have also claimed parts of hotels and lodges.
On Lake Victoria, the report by ILBM indicated that the water body has experienced dramatic changes in the past century.
“Lake Victoria has lost about 60 percent of its cichlid fish in the last decade and has been facing deterioration in water quality, partly due to over-exploitation of fish resources and human impact on the ecosystem,” said the report.
Prof Daniel Olago, a member of ILEC, said they are currently focusing on lakes Nakuru, Baringo, Nyanza Gulf, Turkana Lake Jipe, Chala and Lake Kenyatta and that they will be extending their attention to all lakes in the country.
“We will be doing this for all lakes in the country in an integrated manner. The lakes in our country are still at a level that we can manage,” said Olago who is also a professor of geology.
The Rift valley lakes are facing multiple stresses on their environments including effluents, invasion by alien organisms and change in human priorities.