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Water hyacinth denying residents a living

Farmers  and  fishermen  who  depend on Athi River in Thika East Sub County have complained of the emergence of water hyacinth saying  it  has  affected  their  livelihoods.

The  farmers complained that the weed has suffocated the river making it difficult to pump water to their farms to irrigate their crops.

In  the upper parts where the weed is prominent, those who practice horticulture have been forced to quit with their only hope being crops in  their farms that have massively failed due to erratic rains.

Speaking  on Tuesday to the press in Ngoliba  Shopping  centre  which is most affected by the weed, they said if not eliminated in time the  weed  would be a major setback to the government’s food security agenda in the area.

The  farms along the river banks are well known as the horticulture basket that provides vegetables, fresh cereals and root tubers to local markets of Ol Donyo Sabuk, Ngoliba and sometimes Thika town.

They said the weed acts as a hideout for hippos and crocodiles.

“We  stopped  doing  irrigation  after the floating weed submerged the water. Water pumps cannot work in the weed. We also fear hippos and  crocodiles may hide in the weeds waiting for unsuspecting members of the public to attack,” said  Ambrose Ngige, a youth leader and  a  farmer.

The  fishermen  said that sometimes they get stuck in the weed when fishing using their boats.

One  of  the  fishermen, Nicholas Bahati  who used to ferry residents across the water using his boat said it has been difficult for them to engage  in  fishing, and have been forced to quit.

Others  who depend on the river water for domestic use complained of heavy pollution subjecting them to waterborne diseases.

The  Chairman of the Ol Donyo Sabuk Market, Dr. Joseph  Mulinga  said residents use the water for domestic consumption thus exposing the community to communicable diseases such as bilharzia and cholera.

A  visit  at the once scenic Fourteen Falls painted a pale picture of its former self with tourists shying away from the area.

Its  water  has  turned green and the pungent odour emanating from the waters could be sensed a kilometre  away. No one could dare touch  it  to bathe, drink, or cool themselves during hot weather for fear of developing skin rashes.

The  residents  blame factories from Nairobi and Thika town which emit toxic effluents into the river with the pollution rendering more than 400  residents jobless.

The  residents called on the concerned government agencies to undertake a massive cleanup of the river to salvage the population from health and hunger risks.

“Appropriate  agencies should act on cleanup exercise of the river. We are putting our people downstream to health risks as they consume heavily polluted water. On  water hyacinth, we should also get priority as those living in waters infested by the weed,” said Ngoliba  MCA, Joakim  Njama.

By  Njoki  Mbugua/ Muoki  Charles

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