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220,000 lives threatened in Lake Baringo Basin
Wednesday, June 19, 2002

The Nation (Nairobi, Keyna). Mark Agutu

The livelihood of about 220,000 people living around Lake Baringo is at risk from the gradual drying up of the water mass, a UN official has warned.

The lake-one of the country's fresh water bodies with rich fish stocks-could dry up in the next seven or eight years if the trend was not reversed, the United Nations Development Programme resident representative, Mr Paul Andre de la Porte, said.

He said residents who depended on the lake might be forced to migrate or resort to other sources of livelihood.

"The lake has only seven or eight years to live. If we wait for Lake Baringo to dry up, we will compound lives of many people. It is difficult to imagine how the country will take care of the 220,000 people," he said.

The UN agency official was speaking during the marking of the World Day to Combat Desertification at Kampi-ya-Samaki in Marigat, Baringo District on Tuesday.

Mr De la Porte said the lake's depth was a mere 1.5 metres compared to nine metres 30 years ago.

Within the same period, the local population has shot up from 40,000 to 220,000, placing a heavy demand on the lake waters. The lake's depth has also reduced because of siltation from heavy soil erosion in catchment areas.

Seasonal rivers meandering through the vast semi-arid region sweep tonnes of sand and other debris into the lake.

The UNDP boss called for intensive community education, change in land use and increase in vegetation cover across the semi-arid district to help turn back the trend.

He suggested that a better land adjudication system be adopted to enable farmers to take care of their land.

National Environment Management Authority chief Michael Koech said his organisation would study the findings and decide how to intervene.

However, Prof Koech said it was heartening that the local community was aware of the impending disaster and were taking part in environmental conservation activities.

He said this was in line with the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, which empowers communities to address problems arising in their environments.

Environment Minister Joseph Kamotho said rising desertification and frequent droughts threatened arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), which comprise more than 80 percent of the country's land surface. He said it would take the efforts of the community, agricultural institutions, the government, non-governmental organisations and international agencies to save Lake Baringo and other lakes such as Nakuru, Elementaita, Bogoria and Victoria, which were also threatened.

Prof Koech said it would take the combined efforts of community, agricultural institutions, government departments, non-governmental organisations and international agencies to formulate a plan to salvage Lake Baringo and other lakes such as Nakuru, Elementaita, Bogoria and Lake victoria which are all threatened by the same problem.

In his keynote address, Minister Kamotho said rising desertifiation and frequent droughts threatened the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) which comprise over 80 per cent of the country's land surface.

These areas support over 10 million Kenyans and harbour biodiversity of both domestic and international importance that supports the tourism industry and contributes significantly to the national economy.

 

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