Hotel boom at Lake Elementaita faulted

The County Government of Nakuru has raised conservation concerns over increasing activities by hoteliers around Lake Elementaita.

A fact finding mission established that developers had encroached on the riparian land, while constructing new hotels and lodges posing a threat to over 400 species of birds, including flamingoes, pelicans and 13 other globally threatened bird species.

The birds are very sensitive to environmental change. The County Environment Chief Officer, Dr. Muriithi Kiogora said besides the developments, the water body was currently facing immense pressure due to pollution and encroachment.

At a stakeholders meeting attended by representatives from County departments of Trade and Tourism and Environment, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Dr. Kiogora observed that degradation of the lake had adversely affected water quality, productivity and biodiversity.

This, he added affected its ability to support life. Of greater concern to the team is the fact that 75 percent of Lake Elementaita ecosystem is privately held as Soysambu Conservancy, a 45,000-acre wildlife and cattle ranch.

The Lake Elementaita Boundary Survey report drafted in 2016 under a project funded by KWS and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) blamed the confusion on 1950 maps that did not put into consideration riparian land.

“Almost three quarters of the lake falls under a private land. We need to identify and map the riparian and boundaries around the lake. The county administration will focus more on environmental protection and conservation of the Lake’s ecosystem. We will partner with the national government and other stakeholders to develop and implement strict and clear regulations to prohibit developments in close proximity to the fragile habitat and in the critical buffer zone within the ecosystem,” affirmed the County Environment Chief Officer.

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Elementaita is one of three water bodies that form the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley. The three lakes, including Nakuru and Bogoria are inter-linked and are relatively shallow.

The three lakes are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list of natural sites and are especially prized for their bird life.

According to UNESCO the sites includes, the single most important foraging site for the lesser flamingo anywhere, with hundreds of thousands of lesser flamingos moving between the three lakes.

“Lake Elementaita is a vital breeding site for the great white pelicans, has over 450 species of birds and is a haven for thousands of greater and lesser flamingos that flock during favourable conditions. It was designated as an Important Bird Area in 1999, a Ramsar site in 2005, a national wildlife sanctuary in 2010 and was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2011 by Unesco, together with Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria, as part of the Kenya Lakes System in the Great Rift Valley,” explained Dr. Kiogora.

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