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Outcry as swathes of land taken up by historical Katuk-Odeyo gully

Residents of lower Nyakach Sub-County in Kisumu have petitioned the National Environment Complaints Committee to find a lasting solution to the widening Katuk-Odeyo gully, which has cut off acres of land in the area.

The gully, hat was first reported in 1972 has cut off sections of the location besides destroying cultivated farms, grazing land, houses and trees which are swept into Lake Victoria during the rains seasons.

Joab Ojiem, a resident of the area said the phenomenon threatened to hive off more land and could stretch all the way to the neighbouring Kericho County if measures are not taken to control it.

“This gully worsened in 1994 during the El Niño rains and continues to cause massive destruction on our land and property,” he said, adding that Pamba -Katui road has been destroyed leaving sections of the area cut off.

 Due to massive deforestation, he said the water flows downstream at a high speed causing massive destruction. The cut off drains constructed to drain the water to Awach and Asawo to prevent the destruction downstream, he added, silted up following years of neglect.

Ojiem said the gully harbors hyenas and other wild animals which pose a threat to human beings and livestock. “Our children are finding it difficult to cross the huge gully every morning to go to school. When it rains during the day they are forced to stay at school because they cannot manage wade across the strong water current flowing to the lake,” he said.

The situation, he added, has been exacerbated by sand harvesters who pitch tent in the valley after the rains to collect sand further expanding the gully.

Hellen Otieno, 54 who has called the area home for the last four decades said the catastrophe threatened to sweep the entire area if not attended to urgently. “What we are seeing now has never happened before. The water now leaves the gully and snakes into people’s homes causing massive destruction,” she said.

Nyanza Acting Regional Commissioner (RC) Pauline Dola who led a team of the National Environment Complaints Committee officials on a tour of the area over the weekend called for concerted efforts between the national government and the county government to restore the environment.

Dola said the phenomenon was a disaster in waiting and asked the county government to take up the matter urgently and seek help from the national government on what is needed to ensure the gully is prevented from causing more damage.

The National Environment Complaints Committee Chairman Dr. Lumumba Nyaberi said the committee was in the area on a fact- finding mission following complaints from the community.

The extent of damage, he said, was massive adding that the committee will make a follow up with the various agencies at the county and national government levels to ensure that the issue is addressed.

Nyaberi asked the community to cooperate with the government agencies taking up the matter as a long lasting solution to the catastrophe is sought.

Kisumu County Chief Officer in charge of Environment Marylene Yanza said the county government will deploy irrigation engineers to study the course of the gully and come up with recommendations to stop further degradation of land.

She said the team is expected to draw designs and a budget for the mitigation plan which will involve desiltation of water pans and cut off drains constructed over three decades ago to contain the menace.

“In 1991, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) came up with a mitigation plan which involved construction of ten water pans in Kisumu and Kericho but only five were done in Kisumu and are currently silted,” he said.

After the desiltation, a tree planting campaign shall be rolled out to ensure that all the land adjacent to the gully is covered by trees to prevent further soil erosion. “We are going to establish tree nurseries at the water pans to ensure that members of the community easily access trees to help in the reforestation efforts,” she said.

She called for partnerships between the county government, national government and members of the community to ensure that the activities lined up are not disrupted. “We want to establish on whose land the water pans lay before moving forward because channeling public resources towards privately owned land is illegal,” she said.

Members of the community, she said, will be sensitized on proper land use and the benefits of the proposed rehabilitation works to ensure that they embrace it.

The county government of Kisumu, she added, was committed to address climate change through establishment of climate change committees at county, sub-county and ward levels.

By Chris Mahandara

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