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Cherangany Water tower gets a new lease of life

ROUND TABLE
By | May 7th 2011

By Edwin Cheserek

Once faced with destruction due to encroachers, the Cherangany water tower has received a lifeline after several organisations joined an initiative to restore it.

A team of stakeholders led by Moi University’s Department of Environmental Science launched a one-year tree-planting drive, ‘God’s Tank’, to restore one of the country’s major water sources.

A Japanese non-profit organisation, Community Road Empowerment (Core), has also secured sponsorship from the world’s biggest motor vehicle maker, Toyota Corporation, to rehabilitate the water tower.

Chebara dam that receives most of its water from the Embobut forest. [PHOTOS: KEVIN TUNOI/STANDARD]

"We presented a proposal to Toyota and they agreed to fund part of the rehabilitation of this important water tower," said Core Country Chairman Kiyoshi Kita.

SAVE FOREST

Kerio Valley Development Authority, Eldoret Water and Sanitation Company (Eldowas), Marakwet County Council and Coca Cola have also come together to save the forest. The move comes at a time the world is grappling with the problem of climate change that is threatening to cause environmental hazards.

More than 10,000 seedlings have been planted in the first phase of the drive that was presided over by Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi.

Prof Kiyiapi says apart from Moi University, other learning institutions would be involved to strengthen the protection of Embobut forest and allow it to nurture the trees to maturity.

The move brings hopes of a rebirth of the forest that was once lush with breathtaking sceneries and rivers flowing with clean water, which sustained the lives of almost half the country’s population.

The forest is now a pale shadow of its past, with bare patches of tree stumps, where livestock graze haphazardly. Marakwet County Council Chairman William Chesigany said the destruction of the forest has serious ramifications on communities living around the catchment area.

"Rivers dried up and our people realised this was going to be a full blown disaster. They decided to move out of the settlements they had made in the forest," he said.

Rehabilitation of the forest follows the eviction of 15,000 squatters who had invaded it and stepped up logging and charcoal burning.

The squatters destroyed over 24,000 hectares of the forest.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) was put on the spot for colluding with unscrupulous timber merchants to destroy the forest.

Dr Grace Jerotich, the head of Moi University School of Environmental Sciences, says providing human resource to rehabilitate the forest is the best way to reclaim it.

"Human beings are the destroyers of forests and the problem can be resolved by holding them responsible for its conservation," she says.

She points out that if the residents, leaders and even the KFS work at cross-purposes, the rehabilitation will be hampered.

Conserving the catchments, she noted, would ensure proper food security for the entire population. She said the stakeholders and the residents could only achieve this through concerted efforts.

"We are complaining about water scarcity because we are not carrying out direct investments in the environment. It should be carried out from the source of the water," she advised.

The scholar argues that deforestation, like it happened in Embobut, has been accelerated by rapid population growth and increased competition for scarce land.

She said a community resource users (CRU) and forest users association should be formed to manage the forest and will be selling the water from the catchment to companies and use the returns for conservation.

Awareness programme

The stakeholders also said they would roll out a massive environmental awareness programme to residents on the importance of conserving the forest. Chesigany leaders accused Eldowas of doing little to conserve the water tower yet it gets Sh6 million every month from the catchment area through Chebara dam.

But Eldowas accused Water Resource Management Authority of failing to carry out the conservancy despite being paid every month for it.

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