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Lake swells, homes flooded, people move

RIFT VALLEY
By Antony Gitonga | April 20th 2021
The current status of Lake Naivasha, whose water levels have risen to levels not witnessed in recent past, flooding nearby estates and flower farms. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

David Ngure, an accountant, settled in Kihoto estate in Naivasha with hopes of enjoying his retirement after working for one of the State parastatals for more than 30 years.

With a set of rental houses next to his retirement home, he was guaranteed a monthly income from the houses in the estate that is also home to hundreds of flower farmworkers.

But since early last year, two years after he settled in his new house, the worst has happened as water levels from the lake continue to rise.

Within three months all his 30 years’ savings had been damaged by nature’s fury, leaving him confused, homeless and penniless.

The Standard found Ngure and his 14-year-old son in a rental house in Kayole estate. They have been forced to shift to Kayole, as they ponder their next move.

They are among more than 10,000 people displaced by the swollen lake and have been forced to live like squatters.

“I didn’t know I had a problem with my sugar levels until the lake water flooded my house. I am now on drugs,” he says.

A resident walks past a section of Kihoto estate in Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Ngure says for all the years he has lived in Naivasha he has never seen such a phenomenon around the lake. He is ready to take anything the government may offer.

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“I used all my savings in building my home and rental houses, only for them to be flooded. I’m now broke and unsure of my next move,” he says.

Following the crisis that has seen tens of families in the estate displaced, the homeowners have petitioned Parliament to come to their rescue.

Through Kihoto Homeowners Self-help group, they say they are ready to surrender the land underwater for alternative resettlement.

The petitioners, Zachary Kamau, Robert Waititu and Lydia Wanjiru said the current situation has made it impossible to reoccupy their houses.

“The current situation has led to the deaths of their three members and hospitalisation of others due to stress and depression caused by the losses,” they said, adding that the members have title deeds for the affected parcels of land.

To this end, House Speaker Justin Muturi has directed the departmental committee of environment and natural resources to take over the matter for consideration describing the issues raised as weighty.

While confirming that he had received the petition in which more than 500 home owners had been displaced by the rising waters, the Speaker noted that the families were keen to have the government repossess the flooded land as part of the lake and compensate or resettle them on alternative land.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya (in uniform) at Kihoto estate in Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

“They further want the State to create a buffer between the lake and the residential areas to avert human-wildlife conflicts,” he said, adding that tens of wild animals, including hippos and buffaloes, had been displaced.

The Speaker further directed the Environment committee to work with that of lands, if need be, in addressing the petition before reporting back to the House.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui has said a special team from the national and county governments had been formed to address the displacement crisis. “Tens of families have been affected and we are working to make sure the legal landlords who have been affected are resettled elsewhere.”

Earlier, Lake Naivasha Water Resource Users Association chair Enock Kiminta said they would petition the Ministry of Environment to review the lake boundaries based on the current levels to avoid future encroachment. 

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