Award winning wetland threatened with destructon

Posted: 1 February 2001

Two years after winning a conservation award, Lake Naivasha in Kenya's Rift Valley, is threatened with destruction as a result of population growth and inappropriate development along its shores.

According to Lord Andrew Eniskillin, the lake, which won the 1999 Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award, is now threatened not only by damaging and illegal use of its wetlands, but by suspect chemicals and poor sewage disposal which are causing lasting, and possibly irreparable, damage.

The number of people living near the lake has risen from 50,000 in 1977 to 250,000. WWF and other environmental groups fear that pesticides and fertilisers used by the growing horticultural industry are seeping into the lake, while water extraction for the flower farms is putting additional stress on it.

Another problem is that the River Malewa, which supplies nearly all the surface water of the lake is, itself, being damaged by deforestation, overgrazing and water extraction for nearby Nakuru town. River levels are falling as the silt builds up, and the nutrient load is increasing.

Lake Naivasha, which is situated over 6,000 feet above sea level and encompasses 30,000 hectares of wetland, was designated in 1971 under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands which aims to protect and conserve such sites them through national action and international co-operation.

Lord Eniskillin's warning about the state of the lake came in a recent letter to conservation groups, in which he said some of the area's 350 bypes of bird, hippopotamus and other species face extinction.

"The current inadequately regulated stampede to develop at any cost and the knock-on effect it is having on the lake's biodiversity and freshwater resources will...leave the area barren within the foreseeable future."

Now the Lake Naivasha Riperian Association (LNRA), made up of many local interests, is appealing to international environmental organisations and individuals to help slow development on the lake's shores by purchasing and preserving as much as possible of what is left of the natural surroundings. It also plans an educational campaign.

Meanwhile WWF plans to help local communties to develop management strategies for the River Malewa basin. Unfortunately there are plans todam the river to supply Nakuru town - plans which would "spell the end of Lake Naivasha" if they go ahead, says Sarah Higgins of the LNRA.

Source: Environment News Service