State must support local investments in wetlands

A fisherman on Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya County on May 25, 2015. It is one of the gradually disappearing wetlands. [File, Standard]
Known to provide critical habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna, wetlands are important sources of water for human consumption, agriculture and livestock.

They recharge wells and springs that are often the only source of water to some rural communities. Recharging aquifers raises the water table, making groundwater easily accessible.

This has been the case in western Kenya, along the Tana River corridor and in the Chyulu Hills catchment area for Mzima springs and the Nol-Turesh water supply system.

Even as these ecosystems of great importance provide the listed profits alongside economic benefits through fisheries and generation of products such as fuel wood, building material, medicine, honey and various types of natural foods, the continuous shift in temperature and rainfall witnessed across the country over the decades have threatened their existence.

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Lake Kanyaboli, one of the major ox-bow lakes in Africa, and Yala Swamp are examples of gradually disappearing wetlands.

With the management of these ecosystems currently under various institutions whose mandates and activities are uncoordinated and sometimes overlapping, unpredictable weather patterns over the decades have exacerbated the wetlands' decline.

Steady disappearance of these unique habitats will not only impact negatively on the surrounding communities but also on local and international tourism which depends, to a greater extent, on the existence of wetlands.

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It is important therefore that the government and development partners shift focus on supporting investments within communities to restore, conserve and protect wetlands across the country. 

Collins Oduor, environmentalist.

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