Humans, livestock and wildlife at risk as Voi River faces extinction

Sand harvesters at work along Voi River in Taita-Taveta County. Uncontrolled sand harvesting has left a trail of destruction along the river. [Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard]

Voi River is facing extinction due to prolonged drought and illegal human activities.

Nema County Officer Judith Kalo says the river has changed its ecological status due to human activities like unabated sand harvesting, brick-making and interference with the river's catchment in Taita Hills.

“Increased illegal farming activities as well as uncontrolled sand harvesting and brick-making have left a trail of destruction along the Voi River that cuts across Taita, Mwatate and Voi sub-counties,” said Ms Kalo.

The 210-kilometre Voi River originates from Taita Hills and flows through Voi town and Tsavo East National Park before emptying into the Indian Ocean.

Its reduced water volumes has badly affected hundreds of thousands of people, livestock and wildlife in the Tsavo East and West national parks, which entirely depend on the river ecosystem for survival.

Voi River is also the main water source for Aruba Dam in Tsavo, which has collapsed, affecting wildlife and marine life.

Kishenyi Dam in Taita Hills which serves over 20,000 residents in Kishushe, Mwaroko, Paranga and other rural areas of the Taita-Taveta County, has also dried. The dam that residents depend on for domestic use, irrigation, fishing and watering livestock has become a pale shadow of its former self.

Residents planting vetiver grass along Voi River in  Wundanyi. Voi River originates from Taita Hills and flows through Voi town and Tsavo East National Park. [Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard]

KWS recently announced that Tsavo has lost 140 elephants and 32 buffalos to drought.

In December last year, Wildlife and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Penina Malonza launched Sh200 million water tracking for wildlife and tree planting in Tsavo.

The CS disclosed that apart from constructing 12 new water pans, the government is also planting over 200,000 trees in Tsavo to mitigate the effects of drought and human activities. 

“Water has dried up in all dams and water pans, and that is why we are looking for a long-term mitigation measures to save our animals like elephants, giraffes, buffalos and zebras from dying of prolonged drought,” said Ms Malonza in a television interview on World Wildlife Day on March 3.

Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest service have embarked on tree planting in forests and Tsavo to improve forest cover.

According to Kalo, several water sources are slowly drying up due to increased farming activities.

The region is endowed with enormous water sources like the Mzima springs, Njoro springs, Challa and Jipe lakes, but the resources have been harnessed.