Rising Water Levels in Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria
Republic of Kenya
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The rising water levels of the Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria has been a major cause of concern to the country’s socio-economic development, and this has led to many uncertainties in the counties where these water bodies are located. Different explanations have been advanced to explain these rising water levels, chief of which is hydro-meteorological variables due to climate change that have led to increased moisture availability as seen in therainfall data and discharge of the rivers feeding the lakes. There is also increased soil in run off occasioned by land use changes which have increasingly added to the siltation of the lakes as seen in the sediment load in the rivers. All the Rift Valley lakes are situated in faulted terrain in the geologically active Eastern Africa Rift Valley and are therefore mainly controlled by the geological structures. For this reason, the increasing water levels are changing the composition of lake water thus affecting biodiversity. This is manifested in the reduced number of flamingos who feed on algae whose growth has been affected by the change in alkalinity of the lake waters. Biodiversity of the lakes has also been greatly affected by the submergence of the riparian vegetation. Tourism in the areas has drastically reduced owing to the loss in aesthetic value of the lakes and affected incomes. Economy has been further affected by reduced and restricted movement due to Covid-19. The long periods of the rising water levels in these Lakes have generated a humanitarian crisis. Approximately 75,987 households have been displaced in the thirteen affected counties with a total population of 379,935 requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. The affected communities have endured disruptions to their livelihoods; they have lost assets such as homes, grazing lands and farming fields which have been destroyed and/or marooned by the floods. The rising waters levels have destroyed social amenities like learning institutions (primary and secondary schools), health facilities, markets, fish landing and processing facilities, once-thriving hotels, curio shops, resorts and lodges, electricity lines, water supply and sanitation units (boreholes, shallow wells, sanitation facilities) as well as road networks, forcing many to use boat transport to access services across the flooded areas. This report intends to highlight the adverse effects of the rising water levels on the affected population and setbacks on the developmental gains. The major effects include loss of lives and livelihoods, injury, outbreak of disease, legal issues, safety and security concerns, and ecological or environmental degradation. This report is organised into six parts: Introduction, Impact Assessment and Key Findings, Causes of the Rise of Lake Water Levels, Summary of Key Issues, Recommended Interventions, and Conclusions.
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