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Wildlife at risk as sewage and industrial waste choke Lake Nakuru

By Mercy Kahenda | June 19th 2016
Workers collect garbage that drains into Lake Nakuru National Park during the rainy season. [Photo: Boniface Thuku/ Standard]

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has raised the red flag over the discharge of affluent into Lake Nakuru National Park that is threatening its eco-system.

KWS research scientist Christine Mwinzi said approximately 540kg of solid waste is collected at the park every day, and this increases during heavy rains.

The researcher explained that during rains, surface run off mixes with domestic effluent and drains into the lake.

Ms Mwinzi said the waste endangers wild animals because they feed on plants that are contaminated.

“Raw sewerage is released into the park from clogged drains and affects plants and animals,” said Mwinzi.

Last year, 20 tonnes of solid waste was collected from the park, another official corroborates.

Lake Nakuru National Park Senior Warden Dickson Ritan regretted that the effluent that flows into the lake has changed the Ph from 5.86 to 7, making it unsuitable for wildlife.

“There should be proper solid and liquid waste management system because there is a heavy flow of waste discharge into the lake, particularly during the recent rains and this is harmful to wild animals,” Ritan said.

Ms Mwinzi noted that the park had been contaminated by solid and liquid waste from nearby homes and industrial plants.

Industrial waste comes from a treatment plant near river Njoro, about one kilometre from the park. The plant drains waste into the lake, a habitat of flamingos.

The industrial waste, she explains, contains heavy metals and molasses which float on the water surface and block sunlight penetration that is essential for photosynthesis to take place in plants. The waste further prevents penetration of air, destroying marine life.

The industrial discharge also prevents the production of nutrients and growth of algae for marine life, flamingos and hippos.

“An industrial treatment plant is located adjacent to the lake but the waste is not well treated before it is discharged to the lake. This affects the ecological system and destroys aquatic life though it is not easy to see the effect immediately,” says Mwinzi.

A domestic plant located inside the park holds waste collected from residential homes at Naka and Section 58 that border the park. 

Agro-chemicals from farms also flow into the lake.

Breeding ground

“There could be heavy metal pollution in the lake. Water evaporates in the equatorial sun, but salts, heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants remain in the lake, gradually becoming more concentrated. Heavy metals and pesticides, in particular, are reaching toxic concentrations,” says Mwinzi.

She wants the Nakuru County Government and authorities involved in waste management to treat waste to save marine life.

“The lake receives untreated waste from both industrial and domestic plants that are poorly managed. Treatment does not only mean recycling waste, but rather the waste management standards applied in the whole process,” says Mwinzi.

Rain water also sweeps plastic bottles, polythene paper bags and other waste into the lake.

A visit by The Standard on Sunday team to Kwa Rhonda, Ponda Mali, Flamingo and Kivumbini— the sprawling residential estates that border the park—    indicated the levels of poor drainage and sloppy waste management.

Kwa Rhonda estate chairman Joe Nyandieka admitted that waste management has been poorly handled and observed that the problem is compounded when rainwater drains from Milimani, London, Nakuru Town West, Langa Langa and Shabab residential areas and into the lake.  The lake is on the lower end of the town and as a result of the slope, water from the built on upper areas naturally flows into it.

In June last year, more than 100 buffaloes and two rhinos died after an anthrax outbreak which some of linked to water contamination.

KWS veterinary officers embarked on vaccination of animals that graze in the park while county livestock officers rolled out the exercise in the area to curb spread of the disease that affect both humans and animals.

The County Environment director Mureithi Kiogora said the conservation of the lake and park requires a joint efforts of local government administrators and residents.

Mr Kiogora admitted that management of solid waste was hampered by incapacity of storm water retention pond that is required to capture solid matter before it drains into Lake Nakuru. 

“Treatment plants have not been effective in recycling of waste for several years that used to cause raw effluent to drain into the lake,” he said.

The county government allocated Sh8 million in its 2015/16 budget to distil storm water at the ponds with additional Sh27 million in 2016/2017 to complete the project.

“The county allocated a total of Sh35 million for distillation of storm water ponds. Contractors are on the ground to ensure the ponds are well maintained,” said Kiogora.

To better manage garbage, Kiogora said the county had entered into private public partnership arrangements where different agents are contracted to collect waste from homes and then transport it to the Gioto dump site.

Kigora noted that waste from industries has been contaminating the lake which has affected the breeding ground of flamingos.

“It is unfortunate that Lake Nakuru used to be pink but now, the eco-system has highly been affected, an issue that has seen the county, including local and international environment stakeholders, come together to find solutions,” said Kiogora.

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