Environmentalists warn on dam to dangerously impact on Leke Naivasha

Boat operators around Lake Naivasha tried to salvage a boat that was carrying foreign visitors before it capsized after hitting structures left behind by flower farms.
Conservationists have warned of looming environmental crisis at Lake Naivasha following a proposal to construct a Sh26 billion dam on River Malewa, which flows into the lake.

The dam, which will be constructed in Nyandarua County, is projected to supply water to Naivasha, Gilgil and industrial park in Mai Mahiu.

The environmentalists, however, warned that the damming of the river, which largely supports Lake Naivasha, will further negatively impact on lakes Elementaita and Magadi.

Spell doom

Lake Naivasha Riparian Land Association said the present abstraction of water from the river to support agricultural activities is overwhelming and the planned dam will spell doom for the lake.

“Eighty per cent of Lake Naivasha’s recharge comes from River Malewa,” said Mr Silas Wanjala, the general manager of the association.

The lake, he added, is key in supporting tourism.

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“Lake Naivasha is the heartbeat of Naivasha town. It defines Naivasha as a tourism destination and also supports agricultural activities, and fishing. Damming its main tributary means suffocating the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.

Although an Environmental Impact Assessment and Feasibility study has been conducted, environmentalists have warned that such a mega project should also be subjected to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

“Failure to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment might spell doom to operations of the industrial park. SEA gives a proper plan and takes into consideration how much water will be required while weighing on the options available without creating environmental crisis,” he added.

National Environmental Complaints Committee Secretary John Chumo said the environmental impact assessment should be able to highlight the impacts of the project.

He, however, added that damming of rivers often has an impact downstream. He suggested that the report should give more details and mitigations in place.

Lake Naivasha, he added, faced challenges of siltation "with recent research detailing that the depth has been lowering over time".

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