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Restoration of Thika River ecosystem on course

The government in partnership with stakeholders has embarked on an ambitious programme to restore the suffocating Thika River that has been choked by massive pollution and encroachments.

The river, a major source of water for domestic and agricultural use for thousands of residents in parts of Murang’a, Kiambu and Machakos counties as well as hundreds of industries in the Thika town is on the brink of ‘death’ and interventions to rescue it have been long overdue.

A tree planting exercise by various stakeholders at the river established that water hyacinth has gobbled up huge sections, with its waters turning colour due to the massive pollution by industrial effluent as well as raw sewage from estates.

Through the Future Design Basecamp programme that is being implemented around the Thika River Basin Ecosystem by the Water Regulatory Authority (WRA) and WaterNet World under the Blue Deal programme, the river will be cleared of pollution, encroachments and its catchments will be conserved.

The program is also supported by the Dutch-based Embassy of Earth, an NGO that is widely experienced in restoring rivers and deltas across the world.

WRA CEO Mohammed Shurie who spoke during the launch of the program at Del Monte Kenya Ltd said the government has several policies to address pollution and encroachment of water bodies which will be implemented.

He said among them, industries will be compelled to enhance proper waste management.

Embassy of Earth CEO Frank Heckman noted that frequent tree planting exercises will be done on its catchment to address the reduction of its water levels.

During the prolonged drought season, parts of the river had dried up giving its users a huge challenge in accessing water.

“A tree planting drive in the catchment areas, that include Gatare and Kimakia forests in Murang’a county, is underway as a measure to protect and conserve its ecosystem,” said Heckman.

Grace Kuria, Water Resources Users Association (WRUA) Thika chairperson said they will be engaging with residents upstream who are mainly small-holder farmers as well as the local community to sensitize against farming along the river riparian.

She noted that agricultural activities along the river caused water level reduction and narrowing of the river.

“As residents, we suffer when the water is polluted or when there is water rationing. These interventions are a huge boost to water users, “she said.

On his part, Del Monte Managing Director Stergios Gkaliamouts said the company primarily relies on the river for irrigation in a multi-national fruit juice processing firm and thus its restoration cannot be underestimated.

He said the company will actively participate in restoring and salvaging the river.

The programme is set to be launched on other rivers especially in the Nairobi area once it has been successfully implemented on the Thika River basin ecosystem.

By Muoki Charles

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