Conservationists have raised the red flag over the increased discharge of single use plastic bottles into Lake Nakuru that is threatening its eco-system.
The Lake Nakuru National Park Senior Warden, Catherine Wambani says at least 30 to 40 tonnes of single use plastic bottles found their way into Lake Nakuru National Park every rainy season, posing danger to the wildlife and were a threat to one of Kenya’s most visited parks.
The single use plastic bottles’ waste generated from Nakuru town centre and the neighbouring estates is swept into the park through River Njoro, the main life line of Lake Nakuru.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has challenged Nakuru County government to take drastic measures to curb the plastic bottle menace as they were non-biodegradable and were harming animal and aquatic life.
“If this continues unchecked, the lake will eventually be too toxic for the current aquatic life as well as herbivores that often come into contact with non-biodegradable material leading to their deaths,” Wambani said.
“This new pollution challenge from the town is getting out of hand. When it rains, flood water carries tonnes of plastic waste into the lake and thereby killing it slowly,” says Wambani adding that every week, over 500 kilogrammes of plastic bottles are collected from the park and this increases during heavy rains.
Ms. Wambani revealed that last month alone, 28 tons of single use plastic bottles were retrieved from a screen constructed at a point where the River flows into the Lake.
The county government, stated Ms. Wambani, needs to allocate enough funds to solid waste management.
“There is a need for adequate funding in waste management. We want to see the current situation of the dumping sites spilling over rectified. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has done its part by launching an infrastructure spatial plan for Lake Nakuru National Park to help mitigate pollution of the wildlife habitat and conserve affected species of wildlife whose population is fast dwindling,” says the Senior Park Warden.
Two years ago, Kenya banned the use, manufacture and sale of environmentally harmful plastics, polythene bags and packaging materials. The ban was challenged but the courts upheld it.
Christine Wangari, the Executive Director to Multi-Touch International, an environmental Conservation nongovernmental organization involved in the rehabilitation and clean-up of the river says she was engaging a section of Members of Parliament to draft legislation to ban the single-use of bottles, plastic straws, cutlery, and cups that were chocking waterways in the country.
Ms. Wangari says the ultimate source of the problem – Kenyan’s ‘newfound’ dependence on throwaway plastic products – should be tackled through total ban on single use plastic containers.
“Single use plastic bottles are now a major cause of pollution and reduce the habitats. We have come across animals entangled with these bottles. If ingested by the wildlife, they end up dying and pull back our efforts on conservation. We must ban plastic bottles and give another industry an opportunity to fill the gap created,” she said.
The county government of Nakuru should seriously undertake its mandate of ensuring that litter is collected and disposed of well, so that it’s not swept into the park when it rains,” says Wangari.
“We are now diverting resources that are meant for other purposes into retrieving plastic bottles from the Lake and River Njoro. This is unnecessary wastage. The bottles are also an eyesore to tourists visiting the park,” states Ms. Wambani.
The National Geographic rated Lake Nakuru the second most colourful lake in the world after Christmas Island in Australia.
Having been declared a national park and Rhino sanctuary respectively in 1961 and 1983, there are approximately 45 black and 31 Southern White rhinos today, and more than 450 bird species like flamingos and pelicans.
The park is also home to 50 other mammal species, including lions, leopards, buffaloes and it also hosts rare plant life.
In June this year, while addressing the “Women Deliver 2019 Conference,” in Vancouver Canada, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a ban on single-use plastic bottles in beaches, national parks, forests and conservation areas.
In effect, this means Kenyans going to the beach or national parks are banned from carrying water bottles, plastic plates, plastic cups as well as plastic spoons and forks.
The Nakuru Governor, Lee Kinyanjui says the County Government and the German Development Bank are fine-tuning a Sh.3 billion solid waste management programme that will help to reduce deposits of waste to Lake Nakuru.
Kinyanjui notes that the upgrade of the current 40 year old sewerage system in Nakuru town would enhance separation of storm water a main culprit in sweeping plastic bottles into water bodies from waste water from residential areas for appropriate filtering and safe disposal.
The development comes after the Kenya Wildlife Service reported that 145 buffaloes translating to 3.45 per cent of the total population of 4, 100 buffaloes within Lake Nakuru National Park died of the highly infectious anthrax disease that is caused by bacteria. Two others died in Soysambu Park.
The County boss says mutual waste recycling partnerships with wildlife stakeholders within Nakuru town anchored on Reducing use, Recycling and Reusing (3Rs) model is significant in conserving the wildlife.
Scientists say years of improper waste direction to Lake Nakuru from Nakuru town has increasingly hampered growth of algae in the lake leading to migration to other places of flamingoes and other bird species.
Ms. Wangari further regrets that the effluent that flows into the lake has changed the Ph from 5.86 to 7, making it unsuitable for wildlife.
“Safeguarding our environment ranks on the top of the list of our administration. We understand that when our environment is safe our people prosper, but when it is polluted and damaged their livelihoods standards are injured,” she states.
By Anne Mwale