Rice investor in a spot over endangered lake


Siaya County

Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya, the second largest Ox-bow lake in Africa, is drying up due to an alleged closure of a feeder canal by an investor.

Aquatic life is threatened in the lake along the Yala Swamp, which still holds some fish species considered extinct in Lake Victoria and other rivers.

A senior Kenya Wildlife Service officer Gilbert Njeru told the Siaya District Development Committee meeting that water levels at Lake Kanyaboli was receding fast.

He said unless action was taken to stop the Dominion Farms Limited from interfering with the flow of water through the canal, aquatic life would be threatened.

Water flow

Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria. Researchers have blamed the extinction of treasured aquatic species on continued environmental degradation. [PHOTO: TITUS MUNALA/STANDARD]

Mr Njeru said the decision by the investor to block the flow of water from River Yala into the canal had also led to drying up of parts of Yala Swamp, threatening survival of game such as the Sitatunga antelope.

Dominion is involved in a multi-billion shilling rice project in the area. "It is because of this that people living around Yala Swamp have decided to encroach into the swamp to carry out farming, hence creating a conflict with the KWS," he said.

"Dominion should be compelled to open the canal that feeds the lake or it will eventually dry up," said Njeru during the meeting chaired by Siaya DC Boaz Cherutich.

Njeru, who was taken to task by leaders over persistent conflicts over the resource, said KWS was not at loggerheads with the Yala Swamp community, as had been portrayed.

He said misunderstanding in the area was as a result of misinformation.

The official said Lake Kanyaboli and its surroundings were gazetted as a national reserve last November to protect its biodiversity.

Canal closure

The DC said authorities had been having problems with Dominion over the closure of the canal the firm uses for irrigation in rice fields.

Mr Cherutich, however, said they expected positive results from Dominion following recent changes in its management.

However, the company’s acting director Chris Abir contested the accusations, saying water levels in River Yala had drastically reduced thus affecting the flow of water into the canal.

"Dominion is not to blame and the situation is out of our control. Even if you visited the site now, you would find all the flood gates fully open," he said.