- September 15 celebration recognises Mara's spectacular annual migration of wildebeests
- Tobiko admits Kenya has questions to answer about low quality and quantity of water
The Kenyan delegation to this year's Mara Day on Sunday will likely find themselves in a tight corner trying to explain why the country's water draining into Tanzania is of low quality and quantity.
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko will lead the delegation to the 8th Mara Day celebration in Tanzania’s wildlife-rich district of Serengeti.
Mara Day was declared by the 10th Sectoral Council of Ministers for Lake Victoria Basin in Kigali, Rwanda.
The day recognises the Mara's spectacular migration of wildebeest from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Kenya's Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
The Mara Serengeti trans-boundary ecosystem relies mostly on the Mara River whose origin is the Mau Forest Complex, with the largest tributary being the Amalo.
The Mara River drains into Lake Victoria through Tanzania and supports the Mara Serengeti ecosystem and associated tourism sector.
However, massive destruction at Mau Forest Complex has resulted in the deterioration of water quality and quantity.
This is despite Kenya and Tanzania having signed an MOU on September 15, 2015, on the transboundary use of the Mara River waters.
Both parties undertook to cooperate in sustainable development, management and equitable utilization water resources.
The parties agreed to promote proper land use and management practices commensurate with the eventual sustainable utilization of basin water resources.
Most of the agreements are however yet to be realised. Instead, massive destruction of Kenya's largest water tower continues. Tobiko knows this well.
On Tuesday, he said: "As we speak, we will celebrate Mara Day on September 15 in Tanzania and we will be hard-pressed to explain why and how quality and quantity of water has diminished."
Tobiko told the National Assembly's Committee on Environment that the massive destruction has choked water sources.
"Mara River is on its death bed," he said.
Tobiko said under the MOU, Kenya has an obligation to protect the catchment.
The CS had been invited by the committee to shed light on the ongoing Maasai Mau eviction.
He said the Mara River basin sustains 1.5 million people.
"The Mara River is the lifeline of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and Game Reserve," he said.
The Masai Mara is known for big game and is listed as the seventh wonder of the world under UNESCO World Heritage classification.
The destruction of water towers supporting it could, however, render the reserve useless.
Tobiko said the major threat facing the Masai Mau Forest is encroachment, commercial charcoal burning and illegal logging.
"The impact of these human-related degradation has been catastrophic with frequent floods, drought, reduced river flows, food shortage and poor land productivity," he said.