•Kenya has eight key lakes along the Rift Valley and are all expanding. This has killed tourism activities around most of them and led to loss of lives.
•The Ministry of Environment estimates the rising waters have affected an estimated 75,987 households, with a total of 379,935 people at risk
The fast-rising Lake Baringo has so far affected over 30,000 families living close to the lake. Deadly crocodiles are now threatening the lives of poor victims living around the shores of the flooded Lake Baringo.
On Monday, August 9 last year, Cherup Samut accompanied other girls from her school to wash clothes and bathe on the shores of Lake Baringo. She has never returned home.
Samut, then 13 years old, was a Class 3 pupil at Katuwit Primary School in Baringo North subcounty.
Her friends said they were attacked by crocodiles but before Samut could escape, one dragged her by the feet into the lake.
Katuwit school headteacher Samuel Korir said the other small girls pulled Samut’s hands in an attempt to rescue her from the jaws of the crocodile but it overpowered them.
Last week, her parents, David Samut and Toyoi Lokodong, found some two identical shoulder blades (bones) swept to the shores by strong winds. They believe the bones belong to their daughter, who was eaten by crocodiles.
“We handed them to the police and Kenya Wildlife Service to go and verify the specimens. We are hoping soon to receive the results so we can lay our loved daughter to rest at peace,” Samut said.
The family lives extremely close to the fast-approaching lake.
According to the KWS, Lake Baringo has expanded 60 per cent to 270 square kilometres (105 square miles) in the last seven years.
It has covered some homes and some schools. The houses of more than 200 families are less than 50 metres from the lake.
The freshwater lake has now brought Nile crocodiles and hippos to their doorsteps.
“We have lost at least five people, including school children, who have been killed and eaten by rogue crocodiles since last year,” Henry Lesita, a village elder at Kokwa Island inside Lake Baringo, told the Star.
Kenya has eight key lakes along the Rift Valley and they are all expanding. This has not only killed tourism around most of them but also claimed lives.
“Only slices of their body parts are recovered,” Lesita said, adding that “apart from humans, locals have also lost numerous livestock to the killer crocodiles.”
He said more than 30,000 residents, among them school children, have been displaced after their houses got submerged.
“We really wished to vacate this place but we don’t have any place to run to because we were born and raised here,” he said.
The Ministry of Environment estimates the rising waters have affected an estimated 75,987 households, with a total of 379,935 people at risk around the eight lakes, plus Lake Victoria, which is also swelling.
On the positive side, the rising water levels have helped the fishing industry. There is a projected increase in fisheries potential of the lakes.
However, the damages easily outweigh the benefit.
Conservationists say the lakes began rising about 10 years ago due to a combination of factors related to climate change, including heavy rains and siltation.
In 2021, the National Security Advisory Committee directed the Ministry of Environment to set up a multi-agency technical team to establish the causes of the rising waters, impacts and to recommend how affected communities can be helped.
The team covered Lake Victoria and the Rift Valley Lakes of Turkana, Logipi, Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Solai, Elmenteita, Naivasha, Ol-Bolossat, Magadi, including Turkwel Gorge Dam and the flood plains of Ewaso Ngiro South.
The result is the 168-page report titled “Rising Water Levels in Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria.”
The report says apart from displacement, the phenomenon has brought up critical legal issues.
“There are simmering legal challenges due to loss of about 110,600 ha of land within and adjacent to the lakes,” the report says.
Private land has now been submerged, implying that the title deed holders need compensation and relocation to safer grounds.
“The government needs to determine the new high-water marks and ensure new guidelines on the riparian lands are communicated and effectively enforced as impending rainy seasons may intensify the current problems, creating even more legal challenges,” the report said.
Eleen Leshangiki is one such landholder in Baringo.
“All our farms were submerged, sweeping away all the green pasture, leaving us only to survive by collecting water hyacinth to feed our hungry livestock,” Leshangiki told the Star.
Flooding of Lake Baringo has so far affected villages such as Salabani, Loboi, Loruk, Ng’ambo, Kiserian, Sintaan and Mosuro where farms, schools, churches, dispensaries and bridges were submerged.
Baringo Environment chief officer Richard Ruto said a team of scientists had visited the affected lakes and shall soon come up with a conclusive report, which will propose collective, lasting solutions to mitigate the natural calamity.
“As at now, we cannot offer a sporadic short-term solution to a few affected individuals. We want to have something sustainable that will gather for all the victims across the region,” he said.
Director of meteorological services Stella Aura studies are ongoing to determine if the waters are indeed rising as a result of climate change.
“Recently, we’ve seen lakes rising and we’re doing studies to know if it’s climate change and give parameters,” she told the Star.
“Climate varies over a long time. When the change is permanent we call it climate change. Normally we analyse data for a minimum 30 years.”
At Lake Turkana, Kenya’s northernmost lake, the water last year surged to unprecedented levels from 500 metres to 800 metres, submerging beaches, hotels, homes and government offices.
The county government says 24,320 people have been displaced, and are yet to return home.
Affected villages include Koyo, Naremiat, Imprezer, Loroo, Natiira, Natelewa and Tarach.
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.
Dennis Biwott, manager at Eliye Springs, a local hotel, said in March 2020, the lake rose so much that business stopped after waters destroyed property worth millions.
“Seven exclusive cottages worth Sh5 million were submerged by raging waters," he said.
"It's our humble request to the Kenya Tourism Fund to help us with soft loans to revive our business," he said.
Around Lake Naivasha, the rising waters go hand in hand with rising diseases.
Informal settlements around the lake — Kihoto, Karagita, Kamere, Manera, DCK and Tarambeta — host hundreds of flower farmworkers, but none of them have a sewer.
Lake Naivasha Water Resource Users Association chairman Enock Kiminta said, “The lake is heavily polluted mainly from the informal settlements that rely on latrines and flash floods from Naivasha town whenever it rains.”
Several residents told the Star they are fearful the lake will overflow again during the heavy rains predicted to fall in March, leading to diseases such as cholera.
The situation at Lake Victoria is also expected to worsen during the March April May rains.
Former Lake Victoria Basin Commission executive secretary Dr Ally-Said Matano says the water balance of Lake Victoria is largely determined by the inflow and outflow.
“The inflow into the lake is primarily from rainfall which accounts for over 80 per cent and the remaining 20 per cent is from drainage systems into the lake. Outflow, on the other hand, is primarily from evaporation which accounts for 76 per cent and outflow into the Nile which accounts for 24 per cent,” he says.
“From the foregoing, it is apparent that rainfall plays a great role in determining the water levels in Lake Victoria.”
The March rains will, therefore, likely trigger flooding of the lake.
Hundreds of villagers who were displaced two years ago are still living in makeshift camps.
“We thought the floods will come and go, but it’s two years now and we are yet to go back to our homes,” Prisca Atieno said.
Atieno was living with her family in Ogenya where they were displaced by backflow of water from Lake Victoria. Her home is still submerged.
Her family sought refuge at a rescue camp in Kanyagwal area, but she was forced to seek accommodation elsewhere at the Legio Maria Church because her son-in-law was also at the Kanyagwal camp.
The Luo culture does not allow her to stay or live with his son-in-law in the same compound.
“I have endured it all in this makeshift camp. To make matters worse, I was forced to bury my 18-year-old daughter in a foreign land, just next to my camping tent within the church compound,” she said.
Her daughter, Trizer Achieng, started coughing out blood and had difficulty breathing when she died last year.
Atieno was forced to bury her away because her family compound is still submerged in water.
Celine Juma from Kakola Ombaka, who spent more than six months living inside a school that hosted many families, stays in a temporary structure next to the gate of a well-wisher’s home.
“We are wondering what is happening this time. We have never been in camps for more than a year away from our homes. Some returned to their homes but they live in constant fear that they might get caught by rising waters at night,” Celine says.
The Rising Water Levels in Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes report blames climate change for the rising waters.
“Evidence for this is provided by the level of rainfall in the catchment areas as documented in the various rainfall gauging stations,” the report says.
“There have also been changes in land-use practices which have led to increased runoff, in turn causing larger volumes of water to flow directly and rapidly from the land surface into the lakes,” it adds.
The report recommends several actions in the interests of the local communities and the biodiversity.
It says immediate humanitarian assistance should be provided to the affected communities in form of food and non-food items as well as incentives, subsidies, and cash transfers to enable them cope with the crisis.
“Awareness on climate change should be created using simple illustrations that would lead to co-creation of solutions. This should include addressing the issue of increasing human-wildlife conflicts,” the report says.
“Meteorological patterns should be closely monitored, and simulation of future scenarios should be advanced as part of immediate intervention approaches,” it adds.
The fast-rising Lake Baringo has so far affected over 30,000 families living close to the lake. Deadly crocodiles are now threatening the lives of poor victims living around the shores of the flooded Lake Baringo. Subscribe for more videos: https://bit.ly/2mPyDy3 Connect with The Star Online Online on: WHATSAPP: https://bit.ly/2p8IC2e TELEGRAM: https://bit.ly/2oszlSe Sign Up To THE STAR WEBSITE for Exclusive content: FACEBOOK: https://bit.ly/2ot4G7m TWITTER: https://bit.ly/2mPoH7K INSTAGRAM: https://bit.ly/2mPoZLS Email NEWSLETTER: Visit The Star WEBSITE: https://www.the-star.co.ke/