Government Gazettes Lake Ol Bolossat as wetlands protected area

Lake Ol Bolossat

NAIROBI, KENYA: The outgoing Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, has gazetted Lake Ol Bolossat in Nyandarua County as a Wetlands Protected Area.

This a culmination of several years of advocacy by environment groups such as the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), which campaigned for the protection of the lake.

“Effective January 24th, I have declared and gazetted Lake Ol Bolossat as a Wetlands Protected Area,” said CS for Environment Prof. Judi Wakhungu at the event to mark this year’s World Wetlands Day, which was held on the shores of Lake Ol Bolossat February 2.

“I have submitted all the documents to the Attorney General for formal publishing,” she added.

According to the Wildlife Conservation and Management (Protected Wetlands) Regulations of 2015, the Cabinet Secretary shall, on recommendation of the Kenya Wildlife Service and in consultation of the National Land Commission, through a notice in the Kenya Gazette declare a wetland an important habitat or ecosystem for wildlife conservation.

The declaration should state whether a wetland is a fully or partially protected subject to conservation by the local community. The gazette notice will make it clear whether Lake Ol Bolossat will be managed as a fully or partially protected wetland or will be subject to conservation by the local community.

Lake Ol Bolossat is the only lake in central Kenya and forms the headwaters for the Ewaso Nyiro River, which supports the livelihoods of communities, livestock and wildlife in the dry Laikipia and Samburu Counties.

Despite its small size (43.3 km2), the lake is known for its rich biodiversity that include hippos and over 100 waterbird species (both residential and migrants). It has been designated as the 61st Important Bird Area (IBA). It also falls within the central tourism circuit. In addition, the lake supplies Nyahururu town with water and supports the thriving wildlife tourism in Thomson’s Falls, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves.

As an unprotected wetland, Lake Ol Bolossat faced myriad challenges and threats, including deforestation of catchment areas, abstraction of water from Feeder Rivers, overgrazing, pollution, land use changes, soil erosion and siltation.

EAWLS was involved in the development of a five year management plan of the Lake in 2008; recently with support from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) through BirdLife International engaged with key stakeholders, including the County Government of Nyandarua, relevant national government agencies, conservation NGOs and representatives from the local communities. The Joint Action Plan drawn up through this engagement underlined gazettement as key to any efforts to sustainably conserve the lake.

The gazettement therefore will provide the crucial legal framework which will guide the conservation of the lake as a protected wetland area. EAWLS will continue partnering with the Ministry of Environment, the County Government of Nyandarua, local communities and other key stakeholder to ensure its protection.