Nakuru city's future will be shaped by water levels

The Mayor of Nakuru Councillor Winston Smith declaring the festival week open June 1957.[File,Standard]

So Nakuru is finally poised to become a city? And what a wait it has been! Nakuru has lived up to its name of volcanic eruption and salty waters. 

For close to a million years, the water from Lake Nakuru has acted as a magnet, irresistible to mankind and equally devastating to those who flocked around the shores, hoodwinked into a false sense of safety before burying them all, together with their civilisations.

Even as traders and politicians celebrate Nakuru town’s new status, 400 families of Mwariki know all too well what the lake can do. They are now homeless and landless after the lake swallowed their farms, which are now expansive fishponds and swimming pools.

Nakuru was granted the status of a township in 1904 but had to wait for 48 years before it became a municipality. The wait to be a city from 1952 has been 69 years. And now the dream is almost a reality.

Renowned archeologist, Louis Leakey, was convinced that the rising levels of the lake has been a graveyard to many, especially in prehistoric times. Kariandusi archeological site discovered in 1928 has led archaeologists to conclude that the rising water of the lake drove the early man from the lake and buried all his tools and weapons as he fled. 

Prehistoric period

Researchers have unearthed evidence that lakes Nakuru and Elementaita water levels during this prehistoric period dating back to between 7,000 to one million years ago rose to hundreds of metres above the current level.

At the time the archeologists were making these stunning findings in 1928, Nakuru was already a vibrant town, an exclusive haven for colonial supremacists who treated it as a key cog of their White Highlands. 

Today, Nakuru is an industrial and agricultural hub whose railway services, long dead, are slowly being revived while a modern airport is under construction to serve the newest city in Kenya, whose water levels and political temperatures are forever rising and falling.

Although Nakuru started off as a train station in 1900, by 1929, it was home to about 200 Europeans and 600 Asians. Of course the government did deem it fit to establish the number of Africans.

It comprised one main thoroughfare, Donald Avenue, and boasted of a golf course, two masonic lodges and a cinema. The main hotels then were the Stag’s Head and Lord Delamare’s Nakuru Hotel, the only such facility which had hot water in its rooms.