Concern in two counties as Ura River dries up

An elephant grazing in one of the farms in in Kithoka, Meru County. [Patrick Muthuri/Standard]
Drying up of Ura River is fuelling human-wildlife conflict in parts of Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.

The river, whose source is the Nyambene Hills in Kangeta, flows through Tharaka Nithi County and the Meru National Park.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Assistant Director in charge of Eastern Conservation Area Michael Wanjau yesterday confirmed vast sections downstream were completely dry.

"From Ura Gate (entrance of park) to Tana River, it is completely dry. When it's dry, it is a source of conflict as elephants go out of the park to look for water elsewhere," said Mr Wanjau.

Local residents, led by Kangeta MCA Romano Mwito, who is also the Meru Assembly Water Committee Chairman, sounded an alarm after vast areas were rendered water-scarce because of drought and illegal intakes.

Residents at Kiembene, Ngutu and Tiira in Igembe South say the drying up of the river is also driving elephants out of the park into their farms.

"The illegal intakes erected by residents in the upper parts had deprived those downstream the opportunity of watering their animals and taping it for domestic use," said Josephine Gatwiri of Thangatha.

Mr Mwito said the problem had been worsened by logging in parts of the Nyambene, leading to drop in levels of the river.

“Water levels have dropped significantly and our prayer is that it rains soon. Otherwise we fear the wildlife-animal conflict could escalate as the animals move out of the park in search of water,” Mwito said.

Nicholas Mwiti said elephants had been moving out of the park into their farms.

“The weather has been harsh and we do not expect anything to survive unless it rains soon... Our call is to the government to ensure its officers remove all illegal intakes feeding farms in upper areas,” said Mr Mwiti.

He said the river was almost dry at Thangatha and local residents trek many kilometres upstream to get water.

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Ura Riverhuman-wildlife conflicMeru National Park