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County sets up taskforce to determine new Lake Nakuru borders

As swelling waters of Lake Nakuru continue to displace hundreds of people on the eastern shoreline of Mwariki, a task force named by Governor Lee Kinyanjui has begun deliberations to determine the reach of floodwaters.
The team headed by County Chief Officer Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Timothy Kiogora Muriithi will come up with recommendations that will guide future developments.
“We have completed field visits where we carefully analysed the rate at which the swollen lake was walloping neighbouring homes and farms. The task force is now compiling data collected which will be essential in project approvals and planning at all levels of government,” said Mr Muriithi.
The task force constitutes experts from the County, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Geothermal Development Company (GDC) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in meteorology, hydrogeology as well as from the departments of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources and Land, Housing and Physical planning.
Once the task force completes its work and the Lake’s highest watermark is established, the County administration will put up beacons in all the possible areas likely to be submerged in future by floodwaters.
“Experts have collected hydrological, meteorological, geological, geospatial, climate, land use and vegetation data in the areas affected by the flooding,” noted the Chief Officer.
As displaced landowners count their losses, scores of youth and women have turned the crisis into an opportunity through booming fishing and fish trade ventures.
“The task force observed the various socio-economic factors arising from the fishing activities brought about by the flooding waters.
There is a need to involve relevant government machinery including the departments of Trade, Public Health, Fisheries, as well as the National government officials at the ward level due to the emergence of a blooming yet uncontrolled shopping centre birthed by the new fishing industry,” observed Mr Muriithi.
Properties worth hundreds of thousands of shillings was destroyed as several homes and business premises remain submerged in water.
Area Chief Joseph Oyawa said the baffling phenomenon, which has now turned homes and farms into fishing grounds has never been witnessed in the location.
“I was born here more than 50 years ago. There are no accounts from our parents and grandparents who settled here long ago of such a surprising event,” observed the administrator.
As water levels at Lake Nakuru continue rising to alarming levels experts from the County government, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Ministry of Forestry and Environment have ruled out heavy rains as the cause of the phenomenon that continues to puzzle both residents and authorities.
During a previous visit to the area Ministry of Forestry and Environment Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said the increase might be due to geographical activities more than rainfall patterns in the region adding that his Ministry will deploy geologists and seismologists to conduct a comprehensive research to establish the exact cause of the phenomenon.
Dr Kiptoo stated that only conclusive scientific studies can confirm whether the rise in the water level of the lakes in Rift Valley is due to effects of regional tectonics influenced by the movements of the earth’s plate tectonics.
“All lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley have risen since 2011, to levels not seen in the last 50 years. These include Naivasha, Elementaita, Nakuru, Bogoria, Baringo, and Logipi.
There is no denying that the rise of lakes poses a great risk to our lifestyles, environment and economy,” observed the Principal Secretary.
Kenya Wildlife Service Central Rift Regional Conservation Coordinator Dickson Ritan observed that five seasonal rivers — Njoro, Makalia, Nderit, Naishi and Larmudiak, which feed Lake Nakuru and flow from either the Mau Escarpment or the Aberdares have also recorded increased levels of water during the period.
He said studies conducted in 2016 in some of the three lakes’ catchment areas suggested that a phenomenon known as The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Niño, which was causing record-breaking temperature changes in the Indian Ocean surface, was one of the factors contributing to the increase in lakes’ water levels.
Ritan observed that the situation was not confined to lakes within Rift Valley or Kenya as other water bodies in East Africa countries were also registering rising levels.
“Scientists now believe that IOD could also have contributed to surging water levels in lakes within East African Countries that surround the Indian Ocean Basin, and is a significant contributor to rainfall variability in this region. The rise in waters is being experienced even in lakes outside Rift Valley and Kenya. However more conclusive studies need to be undertaken to establish the main cause,” observed Ritan.
He noted Lake Nakuru has now completely submerged some old buildings that were abandoned in 2013, when the lake first swelled.
Ritan stated that the lake area has increased by 20 square kilometers within the past ten years and risen from an average of three metres to ten meters in depth.
Kenya Wildlife Services researcher Joseph Edebe said areas that were previously grassland at the game sanctuary have now come under water. Herbivores, which he noted had increased in numbers have moved to higher ground.
“Due to changes in the lake’s alkalinity we are now witnessing an increase in bird species associated with fresh water such as pelicans and cormorants on the shores of Lake Nakuru.
The fish structure has changed from Tilapia grahami that are associated with saline water to fresh water species such as Tilapia Niloticus and Tilapia mossambicus. We also have recorded three other freshwater fish species in this lake,” stated Edebe.
By Jane Ngugi

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