Implement management plan to save Lake Ol Bolossat, Nema says

The wetland comprises 80 per cent marsh, 15 per cent open water and 5 per cent dry land.

In Summary

•Some Sh916,000,000 is needed under the Integrated Management Plan 2020 -2030 to restore the lake.

• Nema says the only way to restore the lake is through the implementation of the management plan.

Abandoned boat at the lake
Abandoned boat at the lake

Failure to implement the Lake Ol Bolossat Integrated Management Plan 2020-2030 has contributed to the drying up of Lake Ol Bolossat, the Star can report.

National Environment Management Authority director general Mamo Mamo on Monday told the Star that the lake's integrated management plan needs to be implemented, if the water body is to gain its glory.

“The lake is facing challenges such as degradation at the upper catchment, charcoal burning and encroachment,” Mamo said.

The main problem that hinders the conservation of the lake and its catchments is the land tenure system and ownership.

Other challenges facing the lake include biodiversity loss and habitat degradation due to over-dependence and over-exploitation of natural resources. The lake is also faced with land-use changes and unplanned development.

This has led to encroachment of riparian areas and conflicting land needs between farmers and pastoralists.

The lake in Nyandarua county  is the only one in the Kenya highlands. Its catchment area is approximately 4800 km2 and comprises 80 per cent marsh, 15 per cent open water and five per cent dry land.

One of its peculiar features is that it has both fresh and saline water, and the waters do not mix at any one time.




But the streams used to irrigate horticultural farms combined with the use of herbicides and pesticides on the farms threaten the lake's biodiversity.

Several crops are grown around the lake, with the most common being maize, vegetables and beans.

About 70 per cent of the community around the lake practices free-range livestock farming, while the remaining percentage practice zero grazing.

On April 15, 2023, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said the government will establish a committee to restore the lake.

Speaking during a tree planting drive in Nyandarua, the DP said the committee will be coordinated by Environment CS Soipan Tuya.

“I have visited the lake and I'm so shocked. If we do not act, it will disappear. We have agreed with CS Soipan Tuya to convene a consultative meeting of all stakeholders on conservation and saving the lake,” Gachagua said.

Gachagua added that the proposals made would be subjected to discussions for a collective decision to save the lake.

"Ongoing efforts by the various stakeholders like community-based organisations and institutions will be consolidated for better results," he said.

Tuya, on her part, assured that the government was keen on restoring the degraded Lake Ol’Bolossat ecosystem to save the retreating water body from complete ruin.

She observed that the lake was disappearing due to the adverse effects of the recent prolonged drought attributed to climate change.

"This lake forms the headwaters for the Ewaso Nyiro River, which supports the livelihoods of communities, livestock and wildlife in the dry Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa counties and that is to show us the need for us to conserve this lake," the CS said.

At the same time, Soipan announced a Sh5.5 million grant from the Food and Agricultural Organization for the restoration of the lake.

Some Sh916 million is needed under the Integrated Management Plan 2020 -2030 to restore the lake. The plan proposes several interventions.

These include the strengthening of water resource user associations, streamlining the issues of water abstraction, storage and delivery and enforcing regulations that prevent encroachment into riparian zones so as to reduce degradation of the water resources.

Other interventions include identifying and supporting the restoration of degraded areas in the catchment, encouraging farm forestry in the basin preferably indigenous species and educating farmers on organic farming and the safe use of agrochemicals.

For instance, Sh10 million is needed to delineate and mark the lake boundary, while a further Sh10 million is needed to develop and implement alternative sources for products derived from critical habitats such as charcoal, and fish.

Another Sh15 million is needed to promote sustainable aquaculture and Sh20 million to promote value addition to fisheries products.

The plan estimates that Sh 30 million is needed to establish a community conservation/conservancy area and Sh85 million to establish tourist facilities, infrastructure including water, electricity, and access road among other interventions.

Authorities say the lake is very important as it hosts a number of species.

It is an internationally recognized Wetland as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and Kenya’s 61st Important Birds Area (IBA), with over three hundred bird species.

It is a breeding site for endemic and endangered birds and an international flight corridor for migratory birds.

It is also a breeding site for Red-knobbed Coot, African Jacana, Blacksmith Plover, Black-winged Plover, African Snipe, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Purple Swamphen and Grey Crowned Crane.

The number of hippos recorded at the lake from 1987 to 1989, ranged between 89 and 176.

The maximum number coincided with wet seasons, while the minimum number coincided with dry seasons.

The distribution of hippos in the lake is dependent on the biomass distribution of green herbage in the riparian area.

Marsh mongoose, cape hare, stripped grass mouse, brush-furred mouse, coypu and southern tree hyrax are also found in the swamp.

The marshes and swamps around the lake are known to support 7 species of fish

A survey that had been conducted in 2019 recorded a total of 4 amphibians (all frogs) and 5 reptiles (3 snakes and 2 species of lizards).

Thirty-four (34) species of fungi represented by 18 families and 27 genera have been recorded in the riparian grasslands and neighbouring farmlands including in Eucalyptus sp. woodlots, bushes and scrub in 2019.

The lake ecosystem has recorded a total of 96 aquatic invertebrates with beetles, and aquatic bugs being the most abundant. The area is rich in flora, with over 200 plant species.

In 2018, the state declared the wetland as protected.

Following the declaration, then National Lands Commission chairman Mohammed Swazuri said all the title deeds for the land stood dissolved.

Swazuri noted that according to Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Lands Act 2012, the issuance of a gazette notice means the title deed of the land in question and any others prior to the notice cease.

In 2020, Nyandarua county announced the lake would be re-gazetted as a natural reserve under the Wildlife Act to enable the county government to fully protect it and generate revenue.

The move, the county argued, was meant at bringing to an end the persistent human-wildlife conflict. Hippos from the lake had been terrorising residents, sometimes killing or injuring people and livestock and destroying crops.

But despite these efforts, the lake is still facing challenges.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with Nyandarua Senator Methu
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with Nyandarua Senator Methu
Image: DPCS
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