Sitting 15-km from Kisii County headquarters, Kisii town, is a little known and minimally utilised lake which is clustered in the same category with the popular East African largest fresh water body, Lake Victoria.
Lake Okari, which is located in Getebo village in Sensi ward, Marani Sub County, is said to be one of the three natural sponges in Nyanza that feeds rivers, springs and boreholes in the region and beyond.
According to Chief Geologist and Director of Infrastructure Maintenance in Kisii County, Cleophas Manyara, lakes Okari, Victoria and Simbinyaima in Karachuonyo, Homabay County are the only lakes of their kind in Kenya, which occurred over different geological periods millions of years ago.
The 50 by 70 feet Lake Okari was formed in 1965 through a process where rocks bend and then sink to create a reservoir.
He says it is the reason it is at the foot of the 100 acres Manga escarpment which is a border mark between Kisii and Nyamira Counties.
Manyara says that much of the lake, which has been diminishing in size over recent years, may not be same many years to come due to geological changes which caused a crack in some parts of the Rift Valley at Narok County in the year 2018.
The changes are projected to form a rift from the Red Sea to Mozambique, and cause the water from Indian Ocean to connect with Lake Victoria dividing Kenya into two parts, the East and West.
This will cause the water in the three Lakes to be salted and the tilapia fish currently inhabiting them among other fresh waters animals will be affected.
The area assistant chief Nelson Onsongo Onuong’a says he was young when the lake started forming and saw lots of fish emerge especially Nile tilapia and mudfish which formed part of the delicacy for the local people.
He says that the government moved those living near the lake and settled them at a settlement scheme in Keroka when the water claimed the inhabited space.
The assistant chief who was born in 1953 says it is until recently they stopped digging canals to reduce the amount of water from the lake when the torrential rains which normally pound the area causing flash floods started receding due to global warming.
He says area residents always believed there was a connection between the lake and Lake Victoria because it contained abundant fish which no one replenished.
However, the lake is currently covered with reeds and other natural vegetation which has made it difficult for residents to access the fish and has also become a habitat for dangerous snakes.
The lake which is connected to mysteries by locals is said to have been created when land sunk killing the owner of the land whom it is named after, and covering his homestead.
According to one of the grandchildren of the said owner of the land where the lake sits, Bernard Manani, the lake covered about 100 by 100 meters during the time he was young.
Manani says human activities like planting of eucalyptus trees, arrowroots, coffee and maize compounded challenges of siltation from flash floods contributing to reduction of the water mass.
Kisii University Vice Chancellor Prof John Akama explains the cultural factors connected to the lake and other natural phenomena around the lake.
He says the tremours which have been experienced in the area in the last few years are a geological confirmation that the underlying rocks and underground activities are same as those around volcanic escarpments and added that in the future there will be a major action that will cause a rift in the country and may swallow major towns in the region.
By Jane Naitore