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River on the brink of ‘giving up’ after seven decades of plenty

By Michael Ollinga and Fred Kibor | January 15th 2017
Pain and misery as rivers dry up. (Photo: Courtesy)

The last time River Kipsinende in Plateau area, Uasin Gishu County, dried up was in 1944, making it the most reliable source of water for the residents for the last seven decades.

But the current dry spell has not spared the river and thousands of residents who depend on it face a bleak future.

Kipkoech Yego, 74, a resident, said the river only dried up  in 1944 when a massive drought hit most parts of the country, leading to famine and death of animals.

“The drought wiped out all livestock, making it impossible to bury all of them and they decayed on the fields, as the hot sun continued scorching the land. The fields were filled with bones, and the area was looking white," Yego said.

It is from that dominant white colour across the fields that residents coined the name “Kiplel Kowo”, loosely translated to mean white bones to refer to the famine.

“Since that time when we were children this river has never dried up even in extreme dry spells. Last year, the levels reduced a little bit, but we never lacked water. What is happening now is a worrying indicator to those who depend on its water,” Yego said.

The river not only provides water for domestic use and livestock in the area, but is the sole water source for four schools, Plateau Mission Hospital and a population of over 20,000.

“Plateau and Kipchamo Primary and Secondary schools, the hospital and over 20,000 residents of this area and Kipchamo are supplied with water from those pipes connected to the river, but all we get now can hardly fill a bucket,” said Willy Ruto, who lives near the river.

Plateau Primary School pupils who used to enjoy the luxury of piped water in the school are forced to trek for up to five kilometres to Naiberi area to get the vital commodity.

“This challenge has been aggravated by some individuals upstream who have put barriers along the river course to divert the water into their flower and livestock farms because the rivers are flowing normally from Kaptagat Forest,” Ruto said.

He said if the dry spell continues, it will be devastating to the locals and their livestock.

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