CONSERVATION

Ondiri Swamp to be gazetted soon, says Nema

To protect it from multiple threats, including encroachment.

In Summary

• Pesticides from farms drain into the swamp.

• Conservationists have been pushing the government to gazette the swamp.

A private developer extracts water from the Ondiri Swamp
A private developer extracts water from the Ondiri Swamp
Image: / GILBERT KOECH

The Ondiri Swamp will be gazetted to protect it from multiple threats, including encroachment, the National Environment Management Authority has said.

Other threats facing the swamp include illegal harvesting of grass that has destroyed bird habitat, thirsty eucalyptus trees dotting the area, and a huge number of greenhouses illegally drawing water from it. Pesticides from farms also drain into the swamp.

Nema director-general Mamo Mamo told the Star that the process to protect the swamp is at an advanced stage.  "We will gazette the swamp soon," Mamo said.

Conservationists who have been pushing the government to gazette the swamp with a view to restoring its lost glory have welcomed the move.

Mazingira Yetu director Sam Dindi told the Star on the phone on Wednesday that the community around the swamp has been protecting it.

"After the gazettement, the community will implement other projects such as ecotourism. There are a lot of greenhouses in the area, a move that has seen chemicals find their way into the swamp. Farmers will have to change their modes of farming and practice organic farming," he said.

Dindi said a nature trail will be established on the wetland and young people will be trained on birding.

Ondiri Swamp is located in Kikuyu, Kiambu county.  It is said to be the second deepest wetland in Africa after another one in Douala, Cameroon.

Decades ago, Ondiri which is located about 25 kilometres West of Nairobi, was teeming with life. The swamp used to cover 74 acres, but now it is only 37 acres—half the size.

Its underground water, for instance, has been feeding Kikuyu Springs, the city’s oldest water source and is still a key extraction point for Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, supplying the city’s Karen suburb.

In 2013, the Water Resources Management Authority declared Kikuyu Springs a groundwater-protected zone. However, the Ondiri Swamp still lacks protection.

Most of the swamp is covered by aquatic plants, rushes, papyrus and water grass.

It has also been classified by experts as an Important Bird Area.

In 1998, Nature Kenya and other stakeholders counted 23 bird species in just one afternoon.

By 2004, researchers conducting a baseline study of the swamp counted and recorded 41 species of birds.

Nema is also carrying out a purge on those polluting the Nairobi River.

The authority had already flagged 148 polluters of Nairobi River.

The war on polluters follows a directive given to the authority by Environment CS Keriako Tobiko on July 20.

Mamo said, “The Nairobi River (from Ondiri to Kirinyaga Road) is now spotlessly clean.”