Experts: Planned dam may kill Lake Naivasha

The construction of a dam on River Malewa in Nakuru County could kill Lake Naivasha, conservationists have warned.

River Malewa is one of the two main tributaries of the lake and the government plans to build on it a dam that will supply 100,000 cubic metres of water per day.

“Eighty per cent of Lake Naivasha’s recharge comes from River Malewa. The lake is the heartbeat of Naivasha town and defines its tourism while also supporting agricultural and fishing activities. Damming its main tributary means suffocating the goose that lays the golden egg,” says Silas Wanjala, the General Manager of Lake Naivasha Riparian Association.

The proposed dam was marked as a Vision 2030 flagship project and targeted for implementation in the Second Medium Term Plan (2013-2017). It is planned to supply water to Naivasha, Gilgil and Ol Kalou towns.

But conservationists say the dam is spoiling for an environmental crisis in lake basin.

“The lake is home to numerous industries, is an important bird area and home to hundreds of migrant birds and aquatic species that should be considered even when discussions are ongoing,” says Mr Wanjala.

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Researcher Samuel Mungai says Lake Naivasha’s health is dwindling and measures are needed to salvage the situation.

Pollution

He says the lake has borne pressures of land use, with hotels coming up in the riparian areas coupled up with massive challenges of pollution from both solid and liquid waste.

“Lake Naivasha, sadly, has no life. It faces severe challenges of over-abstraction, encroachment of its riparian areas, pollution, invasive weeds, siltation and many more,” Mr Mungai says.

He says the destruction of the upper catchment of the lake has resulted in storm water often washed in to the lake with large volumes of soil. Waste from flower farms also finds its way into the lake.

Naivasha serves as an important economic centre and is internationally renowned for horticulture and flower farming. The town also hosts vibrant hotels, marking it one of most preferred travel destinations.

According to records from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the current target population for water supply in Naivasha is 143,430 and about 85 per cent (123,950 people) of this population is urban.

The supply of water from Malewa dam is expected to solve the estimated demand of 7,800 cubic metres per day against the current supply of 6,600 cubic metres.

It is also projected that Malewa dam will supply 3,850 cubic metres of water against the current supply of 2,500 cubic metres in Ol Kalou town.

In Gilgil, the proposed project seeks to supply the demand of 17,088 cubic metres of water against the current supply of 4, 500 cubic metres per day.

Agricultural activities

Environmentalists warn that the damming of River Malewa will also negatively impact on lakes Elementaita and Magadi.

Wanjala says the present abstraction of water from the river to support agricultural activities is already overwhelming.

Although an environmental impact assessment and feasibility study has been conducted, environmentalists warn that such a mega project should also be subjected to strategic environmental assessment.

“Failure to conduct a strategic environmental assessment might spell doom to operations of the industrial park. The assessment gives a proper plan and takes into consideration how much water will be required while weighing the options available,” says Wanjala.

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River MalewaNakuruLake Naivasha