Hundreds of youth activists on Saturday planted 100 indigenous seedlings at Ondiri Swamp near Kikuyu to celebrate World Wetlands Day.
Friends of Ondiri Swamp will plant another 400 seedlings including Meru Oak, Markhamia and Cordia africana once the rains start.
Kikuyu MP Kimani wa Ichung’wa, scientists, Kikuyu residents and Nairobi City Council staff joined the event.
They were warned that the Ondiri quaking bog is under severe threat.
It is the head water for Nyongera River, which enters the Nairobi River, and is the underground recharge for Kikuyu Springs, the city’s oldest water source which still supplies Karen today.
“God created Ondiri and gave us the mandate to protect it,” Sam Dindi, one of the organisers from Mazingira Yetu, said, “But selfishness is destroying it.”
Farms and big greenhouses are illegally pulling water, and eucalyptus has been planted too close to the edge of the swamp. People occasionally set fires at Ondiri to create fresh fodder but it is of low nutritional value to livestock.
“Few birds can now find the grassy habitat to nest,” ecologist Sam Muoria from EcoPro Initiative said, “Yet we could develop Ondiri for ecotourism like Karura Forest.”
In 2013, the Water Resource Management Authority declared Kikuyu Springs a groundwater protection zone, but Ondiri Swamp itself still lacks protection. “We need to gazette and fence it at ten metres,” Muoria said.
A quaking bog has a mat almost one metre thick that covers the water. As you walk on the surface of Ondiri Swamp, you can feel the vegetation wobbling beneath your feet.
Ondiri Swamp is said to be the second deepest wetland in Africa after one in Doula, Cameroon.
Its water is low in oxygen and fish fail to thrive but it is crystal clear as it flows under the Southern Bypass.
Entomologist Naftali Mungai has known the swamp all his life. “In 2004, we identified 41 bird species and had a resident flock of crested cranes, which are key indicators of the health of a wetland. But today we see just a few bird species and the crested cranes are gone,” he said.
He added, “Farmers around here do not terrace their land and a lot of sediment comes to the swamp. When siltation comes, farmers take that land.”
Muoria said, “The swamp stores a lot of carbon, worshipers come from far to make traditional prayers here. And people really appreciate the value of this place.”