Saturday, 28 July 2012

7 Million people depending on ecosystem endangered in Kenya unless........

By George Morara

The government of Kenya and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has called on all organizations involved in the conservation of the Tana Basin to work together to avert a livelihood crisis facing more than 7 million people depending on the ecosystem.
A section of participants at the workshop.Picture by G.Morara

Country`s Water Minister Mrs. Charity Ngilu made the rallying call in Nyeri, the capital of Central Province late this week during a two-day Tana Catchment Partners’ Consultative meeting. She expressed concern that many similar activities were ongoing in the basin whose 80 per cent water comes to Nairobi, the Capital City regardless of the impending conservation crisis.

In a statement delivered by a senior director in the Ministry’s water services, Fred Mwango, the minister said all stakeholders working in the basin should avoid duplication of activities in order to uniformly address the issue.

“I wish to encourage the various research entities to continue their good work in the generation of knowledge and to focus future research on current and foreseeable challenges on water resources, so that their results can get practical application in solving problems in the real world,” said the minister.

The minister said that it is important that all stakeholders working to conserve the Tana ecosystem to profile their activities under the national body charged with water management; the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) for easier coordination and communication of the existing projects.

“As envisaged in the National Water Master Plan 2030 (NWMP 2030), the national resolve to empower and strengthen WRMA to undertake its mandate is very clear. The journey towards prosperity for this Basin starts at this juncture and has to involve all of you and your support,” said Ngilu.

The minister’s sentiments were echoed by UNEP’s Head of Fresh Water and Marine Ecosystems Branch, Jacqueline Alder. She said there has not been a constituted forum to evaluate the coherence of various projects in the Tana Basin.

“There is therefore a need to better coordinate the various partners and their activities to ensure the implementation of the Catchment area Management Strategy (CMS) is achieved in harmony.

She said alongside this coordination; there is need also to have an appropriate communication mechanism for the partners to enhance learning. “This will also inform strategic delivery and alignment of activities on real lessons,” she added.

During discussions, a number of organizations including government agencies unanimously agreed there is an urgent need to work closely owing to the fact that the Tana River was an important water resource in the East African region.

“It is true that these kind of synergies are required; first, by involving communities in a sustainable resource management method,” said a representative from the Thika Water Resource Users Association (WRUA), Daniel Mbugua.

However, The National Conservancy (TNC) head, Colin Apse, for effective coordination to ensure continuity of water conservation activities, there is also need for users of the commodity to have fresh initiatives such as the Water Endowment Fund to guide such activities.

The Tana is arguably the longest and biggest river in Kenya flowing more than 1, 000km and contributes 50 per cent of the country’s water discharge into the Indian Ocean, according to UNEP studies. It originates from the Abedares and Mount Kenya catchment areas.

The Tana Basin covers an area of 126, 026sq km which is said to equal 20 per cent of the country’s land area and is the second largest Basin in Kenya after the Ewaso Ngi’ro.

According to TNC’s water engineer, Fred Kihara, demand for water is high due to increasing population especially in the upper parts of the Basin, where the rain-fed agriculture is practiced on 21 per cent of the total land area in the Basin.

“The various land use practices within the Basin have led to increasing demand for water resources and thus to an increase in conflicts in water utilization due to competing interests. This therefore calls for ready funds to run these conservation projects,” he added.

Recently there has been a continued degradation of the Basin from poor farming practices; deforestation leading to soil erosion.

A baseline study by WRMA also shows that, the giant Masinga Dam in the central region of the Basin, had a reservoir sedimentation rate of 5.45 Mcm per year and had lost about 10.1 per cent of its capacity over the last 29 years.

A UNEP assessment has also found out that over 70 partners, local and international, are working in the Basin supporting the TCA to implement its CMS. However, according to Alder, there was little coordination among partners.

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