It is true that we never know the worth of water till the well runs dry. Despite the fact that water is one of the most fundamental requirements for life, our rivers and the most important sources of water are now facing a grave crisis. One may argue that two-thirds of our planet is water, but did you know that despite this fact we still face an acute water shortage?
It takes a lot of blue to stay green. Mt Kenya’s ecosystem; a leading water catchment area in Kenya that provides water directly to over two million people has most of its rivers currently running dry. The ecosystem not only serves as a catchment for Ewaso Ngiro North, but also for river Tana; the largest river in Kenya. All rivers flowing from Mt Kenya form tributaries of both Tana and Ewaso Ngiro rivers.
Well, every drop of water counts. As we speak, we are in a swim or sink situation and even as we get deeper to the real issues on the ground, there is too much blame game and the big question is ‘who is responsible?’.Despite the fact that large-scale farmers are being blamed for draining the rivers, the small-scale farmers aren’t clean either, this is because they also pump water directly from the rivers to irrigate their farms. Mt. Kenya region is very rich in agricultural production and irrigation has really boosted the farmer’s agricultural produce. So, is farming the major problem? Well, the problem is definitely worse than this.
“Nature is very unforgiving and if you destroy nature, it will destroy you,” powerful words from the late Professor Wangari Maathai. Let’s get a true picture of the current situation of a few of the many rivers flowing from Mt Kenya and Aberdares that are drying up. Gura River, famously known for being the fastest river in Africa is running dry. In fact, some residents refer to it as “Usain Bolt” river. Whenever the water levels are high, the river is known to form the swiftest fall in Kenya that cascades 300 M into an impenetrable canyon.
This is river Thegu which hails from Mt. Kenya. It was previously famous for its booming trout population, breathtaking scenery, ice cold water as well as a home for both flora and fauna. What is left now? Sadly neglected scenery full of pebbles. Have a look.With the two just being samples, many more rivers including Sagana, Ontulili, Thuci, and Rupingazi are on the verge of disappearing. This is definitely a question of ecosystem degradation which is human-induced on an upper hand. We cannot ignore or suspend other natural factors that may have led to this, but sometimes we blame nature too much when we human beings are the leading causes of the environmental challenges being faced by the human race. Climate change is now affecting everyone.
A naked truth is that logging is going on in Mt Kenya. It’s so sad that the rising demand for wood has led to the exploitation of indigenous trees even on spots well-known to be natural water sources such as streams. Earlier on, tree harvesting was mostly allowed for trees that had fallen as a result of old age and there was licensing for the same. What changed? This may definitely mean that the people who have been entrusted to protect our natural resources are either sleeping in their line of duty or are now in cahoots with illegal and unknown merchants who access our forests to cut down live trees for poles or timber.
This is a sad situation and an urgent call for action from all stakeholders; citizens, the government, environmentalists, county governments, private sectors and all conservation consortiums. We all need to be responsible. It’s the higher time we unite and shift our policies in favor of integrated water resource management, re-afforestation practices, capacity building and environmental education on the importance of biodiversity conservation and water harvesting, strict guarding and patrols of our gazetted forests, electrifying forest fences, policy implementation and most importantly being honest with ourselves.