Rising Lake Turkana threatens lives, wrecks livelihoods

Twenty-four thousand people displaced, lives, livelihoods ruined

In Summary

• Rising water have submerged boats, fish storage areas, houses, hotels, beaches, business, government offices.

• Hippo and crocodile attacks increase; Residents fear waterborne diseases. 

Homesteads in Kalokol at shores of Lake Turkana submerged by raging waters from Lake Turkana
Homesteads in Kalokol at shores of Lake Turkana submerged by raging waters from Lake Turkana

People along the shores of Lake Turkana are living in fear and counting huge losses caused by rising water.

Fishermen, traders and others say their livelihoods are ruined by the  surging lake.

Residents who spoke to the Star say since March  2020, Lake Turkana's water levels have been rising, making most fishing impossible.

Last year, the authorities said the water had surged to unprecedented levels from 500 metres to 800 metres, submerging beaches, hotels, homes and government offices.

The situation has increased attacks by hippos and crocodiles.

People fear outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

The county government said 24,320 people have been displaced.

Area chiefs said thousands of people have been displaced. Kalokol assistant chief Stephen Jamada said the water has ravaged several villages with 762 households.

Affected villages include Koyo, Naremiat, Imprezer, Loroo, Natiira, Natelewa and Tarach.

Traders and fishermen say their nets and boats have sunk.

In Eliye springs in Kangatotha ward, more than 500 households have been displaced, assistant chief Paul Longyei said.

He said floods have destroyed dry beaches, hotels, homes, offices, Christine camp, Bahamas camp, Eliye springs and Napak tented camp.

Fisherman Jackson Nakwalo from Kalokol, said the rising water has destroyed fresh fish storage facilities equipped with refrigerators, dry fish stores, beach management unit offices as well as boats and nets.

“The lake is still swelling. We are worried about what is going to happen next. We depend on fishing for survival but since the lake started swelling we cannot risk dropping fishing nets in the water,” he said.

Turkana Kenya National Chamber Commerce chairman Piu Ewoton said the surge is a threat to livelihoods, businesses, tourism and fishing.

Many people are jobless since businesses have closed, he said.

The landing beaches have been submerged by the swollen lake. They include Kaito, Kalokol, Todonyang, Kariekuk, Naiyani and Esanyait, he said.

Ewoton appealed to the Kenya Tourism Fund mandated to support hotels and restaurants, to disburse money to business people in Turkana to revive their businesses.

Dennis Biwott, resort manager at Eliye Springs, said in 2020 things were well until Covid-19 came. the rising waters made for a double tragedy, he said.

“In March 2020, the lake rose so much that it affected our business and destroyed property worth millions. Seven exclusive cottages worth Sh5 million were submerged by ragging waters," he said.

He said the resort lost two boats worth Sh5 million.

"It's our humble request to the Kenya Tourism Fund to help us with soft loans to revive our business," he told the Star.

In 2021, Governor Josephat Nanok warned people living and trading along the shores of Lake Turkana to move inland to avoid loss of lives and property.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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