Trillions needed to mitigate climate change, end suffering

Experts link rising lakes to climate change, land-use patterns and geological factors

In Summary

• To mitigate climate change Sh800 million immediate assistance, Sh9.2 billion in the short term and Sh6.7 trillion between 2020 and 2030. That's just the beginning. 

•The water has changed wildlife habitats, displacing some. Other wildlife, such as hippos and crocodiles. have moved dangerously close to people.


A flooded hut once on the shore of Lake Baringo but now inside the lake itself.
RESIDENTS FLEE: A flooded hut once on the shore of Lake Baringo but now inside the lake itself.

Climate change has caused enormous suffering as lakes rise in Rift Valley and Lake Victoria itself is also breaching its banks.

The warning of death and destruction had already been sounded. Rising water levels is not the only climate change catastrophe. Elsewhere there's drought wrought by climate change.

But the problem is so vast and fundamental, the remedies so radical and costly that nothing could be done to prevent the lakes from rising.

Not even guidance from ancestors could prevent the relentlessly rising water from causing wanton destruction.

It destroyed houses, leaving thousands of people homeless, crops and pasture under water.

Wildlife lost their habitats, driving them to to higher grounds where displaced families also sought refuge, causing man and beast to clash.

Hippos and crocodiles have moved dangerously close to people; attacks have increased.

By 2020, 19 lives had been lost to crocodile attacks due to rising, spreading lakes.

The environment has also been compromised through changes in water quality, soil characteristics and invasive species.

Nicholas Keino, 30, knows this all too well.

“I had to move from my three-room home that I built for more than Sh700,000. Now I live in a single room," Keino said,

Born and brought up near Lake Barinto, he had to move to higher ground last year and start a new life.

“The Kenya Red Cross Society helped us with tents and small household items. There has been no help from the government,” the father of three said. He is also the guardian of two children of his deceased sister.

Keino used to buy and sell livestock. Now he drives a matatu.


Lake Baringo flood victim Emily Cheburet carrying water she fetched at Loruk shore on November 15, 2020.
WATER CRISIS: Lake Baringo flood victim Emily Cheburet carrying water she fetched at Loruk shore on November 15, 2020.

Experts have linked the rising water to climate change, deforestation, heavy siltation, overcultivation, and ill-planned construction and geological factors.

Keino has lots of suffering company in Rift Valley and around Lake Victoria.

William Changole’s is another case of nature's wrath.

“I lost all my investments last year due to the rising lakes. It would be good if government can assist,” he said

"Now I'm just waiting. I have accepted and moved on. I will decide later whether to relocate. For now, I thank God I'm alive. 

Changole invested all his hard-earned cash in business in Lake Bogoria after retiring as deputy provincial commissioner.

Expecting nothing but good returns, Changole had built a 20-room Papyrus Inn to cater for middle-income guests and local tourists, as well as shops and a nyama choma eatery.

Within seven months, all his investments had been swallowed by the water. 

Changole was depressed for a while.

One day, he found himself stranded and confused in Kitale town, despite being familiar with the place.

Changole later realised he was suffering the trauma of such a massive loss. At least six people have died due to depression caused by the lake's rise.

Like other victims, he expected help from the government. Little or nothing has been forthcoming.

Governments try to provide some assistance but the needs are vast.

Kipchumba Kipkeron, the owner of Lake Bogoria Curios, Bar and Restaurant, is also counting losses.

“I had invested my 18-year life savings into business before the water swept it all away,” he said.

Kipkeron is now living in two 10-foot by  10-foot rooms in Loboi Centre with his entire family. His property was lost between July and August last year and all he is left with is a title deed for submerged land.

In Lake Naivasha, an estimated 500 households were displaced, while in the Baringo-Bogoria basin, about 3,087 households were affected.

Within Lake Nakuru, Solai and Elementaita basins, socio economic issues are evident  in the Mwariki-Barut settlement, where 1,500 households who are at great risk of losing Sh4.5 billion.

In Lake Solai 2,626 acres of private cropland and pasture have been submerged.

At the Turkwel dam, 5,000 households have been displaced (about 30,000 people), 13 schools with about 2,700 pupils have been inundated.

More than 6,000 acres of grazing land and 11 fish landing beaches have been flooded. More than 35km of road, 16 boreholes and three health facilities have been destroyed.

The surge of Lake Turkana has affected 30,186 people.


As the disaster continued the government formed a multi-agency technical team. The mission was to establish the causes, socioeconomic impacts and recommend how to improve the situation and cushion affected families.

The team worked with UNDP, the Red Cross and the Stockholm Environment Institute by undertaking a scoping mission from October 21 to October 30, 2020.

They covered 11 lakes and one dam.

They are Lake Turkana, Lake Logipi, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Solai, Lake Elementaita, Lake Naivasha, Lake Ol Bolossat, Lake Magadi and Lake Victoria.

The teams also studied the Turkwel dam and the Ewaso Nyiro South catchment area.

The team said Lake Baringo has expanded by 85.1 per cent, Bogoria 10.3, Elementaita 33.3, Magadi 4.03, Naivasha 38.35, Nakuru 19.5, Turkana 8.44, Victoria 0.5 and Ol Bolossat 279.19.

The technical team noted destroyed settlements and livelihoods, loss of wildlife habitat, destruction of critical infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, electrical systems.

"The submerging of large tracts of lands has also caused loss of farmlands and grazing lands, triggering rising cases of human-wildlife conflicts," the team said.

It recommended Sh800 million immediate assistance of the displaced.

The team said the freshwater ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, for example, changes in water availability, water quality, and evaporation's effects on ecosystem structure and function.

The situation has been worsened by unusually high rainfall  as a result of climate change and global warming.

The team said climate change is the main driver of rising water levels, saying increased land degradation and over-cultivation has been severe in some areas.

"This has resulted in reduced water percolation into the groundwater systems and higher rainfall runoff from land, leading to larger volumes of water flowing directly and rapidly from the land surface into the lakes."

The team said the run-off triggers siltation and sedimentation on the lake floors, reducing the volume of water that can be stored.

"Tectono-magmatic field stress coupled with seismicity could also influence the swelling waters. Far tectonic processes happening in the Mid-Atlantic ridge could have implications on the East African Rift system," their report said.


The National Climate Change Council is yet to start operating.

The Council of Governors has urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure  the Council is operating. Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo made the appeal on July 20.

Ottichilo said they have worked together in developing the Climate Change Act 2016,  the National Climate Change Response strategy of 2012 and a National Climate Change Action Plan of 2012-2018.

The Council is to ensure  climate change mitigation is mainstreamed at the national and county levels

It also advises national and county governments on legislation, policy and other measures for climate change response and attaining low carbon climate change-resilient development.

The call to put the council to work comes as Kenya is grappling with how to get resources for mitigation and adaptation.

In 2016 Kenya ratified the Paris Agreement and submitted ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) with a commitment to reduce emissions by 30 per cent  by 2030.

Environment PS Dr Chris Kiptoo says the updated NDC increases mitigation commitment from 30 per cent in 2016 to 32 per cent by 2030.

The NDC also commits to enhance resilience in all sectors of the economy, Dr Kiptoo says.

The PS says the implementation cost of the updated NDC mitigation and adaptation is estimated to cost $62 billion (Sh6.710 trillion) between 2020 and 2030.

Government cannot shoulder all the costs.

Kenya’s economy is largely dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as tourism and rain-fed agriculture, both susceptible to climate change and extreme weather.

Early this year, the government tried to mobilise resources to help victims.

In the short term, Sh1,060,683,508 is needed for relief and cash assistance while Sh94, 417,364 is needed for emergency health and hygiene services.

Water, sanitation, and irrigation require Sh312,568,250 while the emergency shelter kit needs Sh147,152,980.

The education sector needs Sh250 million. The government said all those in boarding had been temporarily relocated.

Day scholars have been studying in temporary structures.

Agriculture and food security need Sh128.9 million while the environment and forestry sector needs Sh100 million.

The tourism and wildlife sector require Sh438.5 million and fisheries Sh63 million.

The energy sector needs Sh227.7 million and another Sh2 million for monitoring and evaluation.

In short term, a total of Sh2.9 billion is needed.

(Edited by V. Graham)