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February 17, 2019

Chasms worse than Mai Mahiu

Motorists stranded on Nairobi-Narok road after floodwaters cut off the road at Suswa on Friday, March 9, 2018. /COURTESY
Motorists stranded on Nairobi-Narok road after floodwaters cut off the road at Suswa on Friday, March 9, 2018. /COURTESY

"The Berlin Holes’ of Karachuonyo found 30 minutes of exposure on national TV after 70 years of untamed environmental vandalism. Gully erosion has never been this vicious.

The mission to the ‘Midwest’ during Easter by journalist Alex Chamwada and his four apprentices exposed 12 forgotten artificial traps. The invasive cracks run unchallenged across homesteads and farms for tens of kilometers. The Chamwada crew visited five of the 12 gullies. The gullies are deep, steep, slippery, and yawning. Limbs have cracked along the gullies. Lives have been lost. Predators lurk in the craters.

Before the current rains, villagers could walk their animals along footpaths across the gullies but this is not possible anymore. The fissures have deepened, a sprawling environmental metaphor of irresponsible proportions. Children from school make detours of several kilometers when it floods. Herders, market women and villagers attending church services take longer routes for destinations hardly 200m across the chasm. At their deepest, some of the fissures go more than 75m down the cliff of loose cotton soils. At their widest, some are up to 200m across what were once fertile farmlands. The gullies are more dangerous than the cracks across the Narok-Mai Mahiu Road. Some of them can swallow hundreds of cars, lorries, and houses at their deepest and widest spots.

Geologists have been asked to probe if the split is linked to the formation of the Rift Valley. The crack across the Narok-Mai Mahiu attracted national interest after journalists ‘discovered’ them. Without the media hype, the Suswa fissure would not have been headlined in Nairobi. The fissure endangers lives of motorists, and hits the national economy where it hurts most. Tourists follow Narok Road on their way to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Tourists bring in the much-needed dollars. An inconvenience to them is bad publicity for a tourist-starved economy. A threat to peasants out there in remote villages in Homa Bay is normal.

The ‘Berlin Hole’ is a metaphor for the fallen Berlin Wall of the post-Adolf Hitler Cold War. The barbed wire-topped stone wall divided West Germany from the former Soviet-leaning East Germany. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The gullies across Midwest Karachuonyo send a message of desolation. Jean Giono of The Man Who Planted Trees fame could have done something about the devastation. L’homme qui plantait des arbres is an allegory of a shepherd who re-forested a desolate valley around the Alps in Provence, southern France, in the first half of the 20th century.

Those who try to highlight the Karachuonyo crisis are given political tags. Ooh you want run for governor. Ooh, you don’t like local leaders. Jobless youth are enlisted to chorus “Akuna!” to an environmental crisis, which has exploded beyond the means of the Midwest community of 30,000 people.

John Michuki promised action, which faded when he was minister for environment. Attempts to interest Judy Wakhungu in this failed when she was Environment CS. Low on passion for the environment, the plight of the ordinary people and the depleting forest cover did not count for Ambassador Wakhungu.

CS Keriako Tobiko responded immediately the snippets of ‘The Chamwada Report’ were shared for the Thursday Chamwada Report on KTN.

The desolate Homa Hills plains can reclaim their serenity. The challenge is an opportunity for environmental regeneration, food and water security, with a possibility of irrigated forests for optimum value.

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