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KENYA WATER TOWERS STATUS REPORT

By Evelyne Macharia 

 

The Kenya Water Tower Agency (KWTA) in partnership with Kenya Forest Service has been working collaboratively to conserve, develop, enhance, protect and support Kenya’s Water Towers .The Kenya Water Towers Agency was established in 2012 to support Kenya’s national strategic plans for the water and the environment. Five key Water Towers namely;

The Mau Forest Complex, The Mount Kenya, The Aberdares, The Cherangani Hills and Mt. Elgon had been listed as the most crucial water towers that needed monitoring. These five water towers are the backbone of the country’s economy which provides 75% of its renewable water resources. 

 

The Water Towers cover six of Kenya’s main drainage basins; these are the North Rift, South Rift, Rift Valley Bottom, Western, Central Highlands, Eastern and Coast. These Basins are manifested by Lake Turkana, Natrin, Magadi, Elementaita, Naivasha, Bogoria , Baringo , Vicoria and the Indian Ocean . Apart from the five known water towers Mount Kenya, the Aberdare range, the Mau Forest Complex, Mount Elgon and the Cherangani Hills, Kenya has gazetted an addition thirteen since the inception of KWTA. This status report serves as a clarion call to an issue of grave importance, the health and future of Kenya’s Water Towers and our national development. Kenya a water deficient country has to be particularly conscious that the struggle to secure clean and reliable water and energy for the country’s increasing populations is likely to spur increased water conflicts which are already behind some of the fatal flare ups that have been experienced in the drier parts of the country.

 

Population pressures, the lack of planning and the commensurate increase in the demand for resources have placed undue pressure in our Water Towers. Environmental degradation and more precisely deforestation have become a common phenomenon in rural landscape throughout the African continent. Between 1990-2010 Kenya lost 2.8%of its forest cover, this trend cannot continue for the sake of the survival of the future of the country.

 

The water towers west of the Rift Valley have started to show remarkable recovery as evidenced by stable forest covers , levels of river flow and the surging of Rift Valley lakes. In the South Rift however, massive water catch degradation particularly in Maasai Mau and Enoosupukia have been observed with serious environmental consequences on river flow particularly in Ewaso Ngiro South. To secure Water Towers in the south of the Rift Valley through collaborators and partners, fencing has started in Eburu block, Naivasha and Lake Nakuru National Park. Water catchment land degradation has also been observed in the East of the Rift Valley specifically in the Maumanet water tower. Major land cover changes have occurred in this area with a total of 12,960ha of forestland being lost between 1990 and 2010 within the gazette forest boundary. In Imenti water tower there was a positive land cover change from a low of 7,822ha to 11,455ha. In Chyulu Water Tower, there was a major decrease in the land cover from 7,154ha, to 5,162ha. In Shimba hills Water Tower there was a positive increase in land cover from 12,999ha to 14,604ha. With regard to the fencing undertaking, encircling of the Aberdares water tower is complete a small section in the North is however pending. The fencing of the Mt. Kenya water catchment area is underway. Fencing is also being completed in the Shimba Hills.

 

Forest cover is closely related to water conservation, this ecological phenomenon becomes clearer when forest cover is removed and its subsequent impacts on river flow. Kenya Forest Service has put a lot of effort towards achieving a 10% forest cover as proposed in the Kenyan Constitution and Kenya’s Vision 2030.The service has done a tremendous job in attaining this goal by increasing its efforts in tree planting and reclaiming forestlands.

 

Some of the major challenges that are being faced are lack of adequate information on the water towers, lack of clear boundaries of the forests, inadequate documentation of the natural resources contained in it and its potential for economic and livelihood purposes. There is also eminent threat by climate change and global warming, which may alter the species composition of these areas.

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