Many environmentalists and friends of Naivasha are exceedingly worried about the future of Lake Naivasha. This apprehension has increased in the last few years as the Lake continues to face many threats.
In 2017, Clean Up Kenya partnered with the UN Environment, other UN bodies, Kenya Wildlife Training Institute and over 30 organizations including several flower farms from Naivasha to do a major cleanup around the lake as a way of raising awareness on the tremendous pollution being experienced. During this project, over 1500 volunteers participated in what is perhaps the biggest civic action in the area by the community.
I released the following statement to the international media that covered the cleanup during this project:
“Lake Naivasha is grappling with many threats linked to high levels of pollution from both solid and liquid waste and intensive use of chemicals from horticultural farming. We need an urgent action plan which is anchored in law to eradicate this menace before it spins out of control.“
Following this awareness project, UN Environment under the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management organized a technical exchange with government and local stakeholders being invited to make submissions with the goal of developing an Ecosystem Health Report Card for the Lake which would help actors to come up with mitigating programs that would sanitize the Lake.
Experts from India and the Philippines were invited to provide technical support and share their experiences in developing similar scorecards for Lake Laguna de Bay in the Philippines and Chilika Lake in India. These Lakes face similar challenges with Lake Naivasha and it was hoped that this information sharing would help the lake. Lake Chilika, for example, enjoys rich biodiversity and has a good population of flamingos which are also found in Lake Naivasha and Nakuru.
The suggested report card was to contain measurement of several indicators to determine the health of the Lake and would be released periodically. During this weeklong workshop, stakeholders narrowed on indicators related to water quality, fisheries and biodiversity. One of the challenges that were quickly noted in the exchanges is that there exists no framework on how data is collected for these indicators, no protocol for data sharing and no leadership in how this data is collected, processed and disseminated. This means all interest parties collect their own data, in an uncoordinated and irregular manner and uses the data for their own agendas. This has meant that there is no unified process that can lead to a proper report card. One year after the exchanges, not much ground has been made towards this goal for various reasons. However, leadership, especially from those directly concerned with water bodies’ management, is paramount.
This is a very dangerous scenario and does not augur well for the future of the Lake. This is not, however, to state that nothing is being done by many stakeholders. Organizations like Imarisha Naivasha, WWF and state agencies like Water Resource Services and Kenya Fisheries continue to do tremendous work. This is however not enough. In a few months, the SGR Railway will reach Naivasha from Nairobi and a dry port is being planned in the area. This will slowly but quickly begin to see unprecedented urbanization with rapid population growth being experienced. Unless a proper urban plan is put in place, there will be tremendous pressure on this remarkable Lake. This is particularly in the areas of both solid and liquid waste management. Already, Lake Naivasha has no known outlet. This means the plastic and other solid waste does not escape once it gets into the lake. Environmentalists like James Wakibia have documented in the past the flow of plastic waste into the Lake. Sewage is another problem already. And without adequate infrastructure, there are high possibilities of sewage being washed into the lake, making it become the breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens which can cause tremendous health problems to those who rely on the Lake for survival.
We want to warn, that Lake Naivasha is a ticking environmental time bomb. In just a couple of years, no one will be able to eat fish from this remarkable Lake! Unless something is done by the government, local stakeholders and friends of Naivasha!