East Africa Community (EAC) partner states have resolved to scale up efforts to conserve the Mara River ecosystem.
Speaking during the 12th Mara Day celebrations held at Mugumu Town in Tanzania, delegates from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania said the partnership was critical to save the river which is facing increased degradation.
Tanzania’s Assistant Minister for Water Mary Prisca Mahudi said increased human activity within the river catchment was the biggest threat to the ecosystem.
She pointed out unregulated agricultural practices, mining, cutting down of trees and charcoal burning as some of the issues leading to the pollution of the transboundary river.
The river, she said, was contributing immensely to the economies of Tanzania and Kenya, calling for enhanced collaboration to restore the ecosystem.
Mahudi said the government of Tanzania has put in place measures to protect the river, calling on all agencies involved in the exercise to collaborate with the Kenyan agencies to address the challenges facing the river ecosystem in the two countries.
Kenya’s State Department for East Africa Cooperation (EAC) Principal Secretary (PS) Abdi Dubat said Kenya was committed to the restoration of the Mara River ecosystem to ensure that the two countries continue to benefit from it.
The ecosystem, he said, plays a significant role in supporting the livelihoods of millions of people in the two countries besides contributing immensely to the economy.
In a speech read on his behalf by EAC Deputy Director Julius Mwabu, the PS said the Kenyan government has put in place adequate policy and legal framework to protect and restore the Mara River Basin.
Key among them, he said, was the protection of the Mau forest, adding that the government was working with the community, state and non-state actors to plant trees within the Mau Complex.
This, he added, was in line with the presidential directive to plan 15 billion trees by the year 2032.
“This is in line with the Kenyan Government’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) aimed at involving the common man in all developmental issues including mainstreaming environment conservation, climate change mitigation, reversing deforestation,” he said.
He called for public-private partnerships to enhance sustainable management of the Mara River and the region’s biodiversity.
The PS further asked all agencies charged with the responsibility of protecting the river in Kenya and Tanzania to scale up their efforts to ensure that the ecosystem’s rich diversity is conserved.
Republic of Uganda Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) Permanent Secretary (PS) Edith Mwanje called for collaboration between the EAC partner states to save the Mara River.
The approach taken by Kenya and Tanzania which signed a memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2012 to jointly conserve the river, she said was laudable calling on other member states to adapt the model and help conserve other transboundary water resources in the region.
“We recognize that this cooperation is instrumental in our environmental management and biodiversity conservation goals which is a crucial aspect of our shared responsibility to protect our natural resources,” she said.
The collaborations, she added, hold great significance in the collective pursuit for regional integration and sustainable development.
“By coming together as sister EAC states, we not only promote people-to-people integration but also pave the way for attracting sustainable development,” she said.
Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) Executive Secretary (ES) Dr. Masinde Bwire said the joint efforts by EAC partner states was set to take the conservation efforts for the key river to great heights.
“Shared water resources like the Mara River do not recognize political borders and neither should our efforts to manage it sustainable,” he said.
Cooperation between the states, he said, was critical to ensure the river’s resources are used wisely and equitably.
The Mara Day Celebrations and scientific conference is held annually in September on a rotational basis between Kenya and Tanzania.
The Mara River Basin forms one of the ten major rivers that drain into Lake Victoria.
The basin which covers 13,325 square kilometers is shared between Kenya and Tanzania.
More than 1.5 million wildebeests cross the river from Serengeti in the United Republic of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in September in search for greener grazing fields
By Chris Mahandara