Africa, Environment

Flooding lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley lead to large-scale displacement

Besides inundating farmlands, residential areas, rising waters are bringing crocodiles and hippos close to habitations

Andrew Wasike   | 14.10.2021
Flooding lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley lead to large-scale displacement

NAIROBI, Kenya

The rising water levels in the lakes inhabiting the Great Rift Valley in Kenya have not only caused large-scale displacements but have also increased incidents of human-animal conflict.

Kenya is home to 64 lakes and eight of these are in Rift Valley, which is an intra-continental ridge system that runs through Kenya from north to south.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Thomas Chepchieng, director of Medical Services in Baringo county, said the crocodile attacks on people are on the rise, and most of the affected people are aged between 15-19 years.

Douglas Keitany, 42, and a 13-year-old girl became the latest victims of crocodiles in Lake Baringo.

“The young girl was bathing in the lake when a crocodile emerged and dragged her deep into the lake, she is yet to be found, as for the other man, only his leg was retrieved from the lake, “said Janet Chebet, a villager from Kambi ya Samaki in Baringo county.

Those living on the shores of the lake showed scars mostly on the bodies of their children and the elderly inflicted by crocodiles, as a media team arrived in the region. Many people had lost their limbs and were left paralyzed forever.

At the serene Lake Naivasha, waters have submerged an entire residential estate. Industries and other places that offered employment to the locals are submerged and now hosting crocodiles and hippos.

“That place is where my house used to be, it was made of stone andiron roofing … I lived next to that two-story building over there,” said resident Ann Njeri, while pointing towards the area from a boat.

The roof of a church is visible from a distance, as the rest of the building has gone deep into the water.

Affects migratory birds

Farmlands across Kenya’s Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert water reservoir have also been affected. Residents say that they can no longer farm due to the increased water levels.

“The water swallowed up my farm, I have not grown anything this year, I live with my friend hoping that the lake levels will go down. When I moved to his house the water was far away after gobbling up my farm, now it is close to my friend’s house,” said Joel Ekutan, a resident.

Hordes of flamingoes, who breed in salty lakes have also been affected as the waters have been diluted. Their main food algae cannot thrive in low saline water.

Chris Kiptoo, the principal secretary from the Environment Ministry, said instead of 1.5 million flamingoes, only 100,000 have arrived this year.

A report filed by a multi-agency team under the ministry has blamed climate change for the rising water levels in the lakes.

“The freshwater ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, for example, changes in water availability, water quality, and evapotranspiration on ecosystem structure and function," said the report.

The unusually high rainfall has further complicated the situation.

The report further attributed rising water levels to geological factors and general land use.

Requires more funding

A study conducted by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has predicted a further rise in waters in Lake Turkana, which is staring at the future of 15 million people living on its shores.

“Many people think that climate change is a problem for the future, but as Lake Turkana shows, it's happening now and it's already forcing people to adapt to new conditions,” said Frank Turyatunga, the deputy head of UNEP’s Africa Office.

On eve of 26th UN Climate Change Conference or COP26, scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31-Nov. 12, the UK has called on more funding to East African countries to fight climate change.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriot said Kenya will need 4 trillion shillings ($36 billion) by 2030 to mitigate climate change effects.

“Over the past year alone we have seen failed rains, landslides, locust swarms, and floods across the region,” she said.

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