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Degradation of Lake Kamnarok and Ol bollosat

24 February 2012, 10:03 Bernard Gitau

A number of years ago, Lakes Kamnarok and Ol bollosat in Kenya were vivacious water bodies that supported and shaped the ecosystems around them.

 But recently they are shells of their former selves, due to heavy siltation caused by human activities.

"Siltation is still happening, the lake is drying up and this is threatening Lake Kamnarok and the wildlife with extinction, besides affecting the lives of people around it," Elijah Chemitei, senior warden in Baringo county, says. "Much of it is caused by upstream activities like tree-felling and charcoal-burning, agricultural activities, grazing and sand collection." He added.

 Lake Kamnarok, in the arid county of Baringo in Kenya’s North Rift Valley Province, is the only oxbow lake (a crescent-shaped lake that is formed when a meander of a river is cut off from the main channel) in the country. It used to have the second-largest population of crocodiles in Africa, after Lake Chad.


 “The crocodiles at the lake used to be over 30,000 in population; they are now less than 5,000 after many died while others prefer Kerio River that formed the lake. Wild animals at Rimoi game reserve next to the lake are endangered and tourism in general is in jeopardy,” says Chemitai.

On the other hand, Lake Ol Bollosat is the only lake in Central Province and one of the few highland lakes in the world.

It has seen human encroachment, including by post-election violence victims who settled on land near the lake. The destruction of the nearby Aberdare forest has caused the drying up of rivers that run from the forest into Lake Ol Bollosat.

Chemitei says that Lake Kamnarok had decreased in size from 10 square kilometres to two square kilometre. He says people are felling trees, burn charcoal and do agriculture in the nearby indigenous forests and when rains fall; they wash away soils down into the lake.

Chemitai noted that the number of tourists visiting Rimoi game reserve that neighbours Lake Kamnarok in Baringo County had reduced due to reduced wild animals which are the main attractions , the few remaining wild animals retreat to a far distance with cows taking over the grazing fields.

Other animals found around the lake are impalas, bushbucks, warthogs, leopards, buffaloes and an endangered mammal called funkleen.

Poaching is another challenge to the wild animals at Kamnarok a practice that has claimed many wild animals.

 “Poachers enter into the reserve to hunt, last year we lost many animals to poachers and we are disadvantaged because we lack enough game rangers”, says Chemitai.

Chemitai said County Council of Baringo (the local authority mandated to control human settlement) was partly to blame for being reluctant in preventing people from intruding into the riparian land.

“We are asking people who have encroached into the lake to move out, the county council of Baringo has failed to control settlement and prevent illegal occupation , they establish settlements in the riparian land,” Chemitai retaliated.

Albert Lagat, an environmental conservationist said human activities had opened up slopes causing floods that normally wash soils into the lake.

He noted that rivers Ketipborok, Cheplogoi, Oiwo and Chelabei that flow into Lake Kamnarok had either dried up completely or become seasonal following destruction of their sources.

“The lake had plenty of water sometime back, urgent measures like reforesting the forests with indigenous trees, sensitizing people to protect the lake and to move out of the land near the lake should be taken,” said Lagat the head of Esageri Sabatia Environmental Organization (Esaco), an NGO that carries out tree planting exercise in deforested catchments.

He says Lake Ol Bollosat  in Central Province also suffered similar fate of destruction of catchment areas and encroachment.

Lake Ol Bollosat, used to be known as the home of hippopotamus, has up to 200 species of birds and is the source of water that feeds Thompsons falls, the falls is an important tourist attraction and source of revenue in Nyahururu Township, 250 kilometres northeast of Nairobi city.

“This lake has reduced in size from 5,000-10,000 hectares to less than 3, 000 hectares currently in less than three years, consequently hundreds if not thousands of birds have shifted to other lakes or died, hippos have continued to die with tourists opting to go to other places,” Lagat noted

 Lagat said that despite the governments order that people who had encroached into Aberdare forest where several rivers flow from and end into Lake Ol Bollosat be moved, no steps had been taken one year later.

A group of 250 families affected by post election violence of 2008 bought a land at the shores of the lake where they settled.

Last year, the government through Environmental Ministry headed by Minister John Michuki introduced a policy that directed cutting down of eucalyptus trees at wetlands and along river banks.

The trees were blamed for their uptake of huge amounts of water hence causing drying of rivers and wetlands.

“Some people have however continued to grow these trees to the detriment of rivers and important catchment areas,” Lagat stated.

Roy Kiplagat, a resident in Baringo noted that encroachment of human beings into lake reserves where people were building houses on lake reserves, cutting down trees and carrying out farming activities in there, had caused conflict between people and animals where wild animals were killing domestic animals.

“This is happening at Kerio Valley where Kerio River passes through, crocodiles that have moved out of the river have killed many goats as they drink water,” he says.

Kerio Valley, Lake Kamnarok and Rimoi game reserve are great tourist attractions and William Kimosop a game warden at Baringo says that Kenya Wildlife Service was working extra hard to protect the resources and open up the region to tourism.

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- News24Kenya

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