Rising water blamed on soil erosion near Lake Baringo

Main drivers of flooding are poor farming practices, runoff and sedimentation making lake shallower

In Summary

• In the last couple of years, there has been a marked rise in the water levels in Kenya's Rift Valley lakes, including Lake Baringo.

•The rise in water levels started in September 2010, flooding adjacent areas in 2013 and again since 2019.

A flooded home near Lake Baringo
FLOODING: A flooded home near Lake Baringo
Image: FILE:

Flooding has been blamed on soil erosion in Lake Baringo basin, increasing from 0.58 to 50.44 million metric tons per year from 1995 to 2020, a new study has shown.

The study shows one of the main drivers of lake level rise is increased soil erosion and sedimentation of the lake due to increased soil erosion and runoff resulting from land degradation.

The study was written by Dr Francis Oloo and Prof Hussein Farah from the Technical University of Kenya.

It was shared last week during the international conference on earth observation technologies at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development in Nairobi.

The theme was 'Earth observation services for resilient social systems'.

“The other driver of lake level rise is the increased rainfall between 1995 and 2020,” the two scholars said.

The objective of the study was to assess soil loss and sediment yield in the Lake Baringo basin.

Additionally, the study assessed changes in population and other human activities in the basin and how these may be contributing to soil loss and sediment yield into the lake.

These include population and settlement increase, more farming and drawing lake water, tree felling and charcoal burning, among other factors.

Thousands of people have been displaced, including from around Lake Baringo. That also means hippos and crocodiles move closer to shore.

The rise in water levels has been witnessed since September 2010, significantly affecting adjacent areas in 2013 and again since 2019.

The two scholars said the lake water rise has had social, economic and environmental effects in the basin such as displacement of populations, destruction of livelihoods and conversion or reversal of ecological processes.

Sediment yield is the quantity of sediment per unit land area eroded and carried by a stream over a particular time period.

In the study, sediment yield was estimated as a function of soil loss and sediment delivery ratio.

Sediment delivery ratio is the fraction of total eroded sediments that is transported from a given catchment over a given period of time.

The two scholars said sediment in the lake increased from 60,000 metric tonnes to 5.29 million metric tons per year between 1995 and 2020.

The study corroborates the scoping mission report released by the government November last year.

The National Security Advisory Committee in 2020 recommended that the Ministry of Environment constitute a multiagency technical committee to assess the socio-economic impacts and causes of the rising water levels within the Great Rift Valley Lakes, the Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria.

The scoping mission report showed that over the years, the rising water levels in Lake Baringo have claimed about 140 square kilometres of riparian land.

Some 3,087 households living around the lake have also been forced to move.

The flooding  n bordering the lake, particularly in the southern and the western parts.

The flooding has caused major disturbances, including the destruction and loss of property, displacement of communities and loss of animal and human lives.

The results from the scoping mission reveal a complex interplay of hydro-meteorological factors, land-use change dynamics, as well as the geological and morphological setting of the lakes that have influenced the current flooding.

The submersion of six health facilities in Loruk, Kambi Samaki, Loboi, Salabani, Ng’ambo and Ol Kokwe Island hindered access to medical services.

The affected populations were at risk of contracting water-borne diseases including malaria, cholera, typhoid, dysentery and amoebic dysentery, as well as respiratory infections because of the cold.

The living conditions are poor; the affected populations live in geographically scattered areas with little socio-economic benefits.

Of those affected by these floods, persons with disabilities nd the elderly faced more challenges.

Owners of once booming businesses like Lake Bogoria Curio, Lake Baringo Club and Restaurant, Papyrus Inn, and Soi Lodge that catered for middle-income guests and tourists having lost their main sources of livelihood.

(Edited by V. Graham) 

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