Effects of Water Levelrise on Riparian Areas of Lake Naivasha, Kenya
Karanja, Joseph Mwaura
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Globally, lakes levels fluctuate naturally but when the rise is unprecedented the impact is far reaching. Kenya’s central rift valley lakes have swollen to the highest level in recorded recent history. The rise has severely affected livelihoods, destroyed infrastructure, inundated vegetation, caused human and wildlife displacement as well as destroyed ecosystem at large. One of the central Rift-Valley lakes that has experienced this rise is Lake Naivasha. Flooding of the lake has caused destruction of development infrastructures including homes, schools, churches, hotels, greenhouses, pump houses, roads, among many others. Also, a lot of vegetation has been lost which means loss of terrestrial habitat for wildlife and reduced protective riparian vegetation. The study used a combination of methods in analyzing quantitative and qualitative data collected using Google Earth historical imageries of December 2008 to October 2020, field observations and interviews among others. Geographic Information System (GIS) was used in the analysis, mapping and computing the amount of land and vegetation lost to water, and also to determine the number of structures and the length of road affected. Content analysis and Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyze qualitative data. Results from this research found that 34.42 km² of the terrestrial land has been lost to the lake especially on the northern side towards Gilgil River and Kihoto village. A lot of vegetation covering 29.01km² has vanished to the lake’s water, which includes 4.33 km² of farmland, beside 362 trees toppled and 2112 trees drying. Yellow fever acacia (Acacia xanthophloea) was the most affected vegetation. Infrastructures were found to have been destroyed or rendered unusable by the flooding water, whereby 409 block buildings were identified and 35.936 kilometers of either tarmacked, loose surface roads or tracks were found to be no longer usable since they were water pooled or impassable. Seventy-five water intakes and canals were submerged and had to be relocated to higher grounds. The rise of the lake waters has affected the wellbeing of low income earners especially 500 Kihoto settlement homeowners, which has occasioned to some falling sick, being stressed, confused, uncertain of the future and culminated to 3 deaths. The flooding has caused wildlife-human conflict as a result of destruction of dry land wildlife habitat and also water borne diseases as a result of waste mixing with the flooding lake water. Information from this project is useful in planning and management to avoid further occurrences of such effects. It also informs physical planning and infrastructure development that will not be especially in vulnerable settlements and resources to avoid such disasters in view of future water rise of the lake.