African Press International (API)

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Saving Mara River is crucial

Posted by African Press International on September 17, 2016

Mara river Basin, which support over a million people and wildlife in the Serengeti and Masai Mara where wildebeests migrations are witnessed annually is facing more environmental related threats and might disappear if nothing is done.

By Dickens Wasonga.

The Mara River basin, in whose ecosystem over a million people and animals depends on for survival is still under enormous threats arising from human activities and scientists predicts it’s disappearance in the future if nothing is done to conserve it.

According to the Executive Secretary of the Lake Victoria Basin commission, a regional body of the EAC, mandated to coordinate sustainable development and utilization of the shared resources within the basin, Dr Ally Said Matano, the Mara ecosystem is now more polluted than ever before.

Addressing thousands of people from Tanzania and Kenya, the two EAC States that the river traverses ,the executive secretary said the river was regrettably choking with silt from farmlands and was over abstracted beyond its capacity.

“The River Mara’s catchment is degraded to an extent that some scientists have predicted it’s disappearance in the foreseeable future if nothing is done” said Dr Matano.

If that were to happen, the livelihood of a million plus people who directly depends on the ecosystem would be threatened including millions of wild animals in the Serengeti national park and the Masai Mara game reserve both of Tanzania and Kenya.

Dr Matano said the situation has been aggravated by the impacts of the climate change.

However all is not lost if the renewed calls made by delegations from the government of Tanzania and Kenya towards their resolve to back conservation efforts for the river basin and its catchment is anything to go by.

Having realized the regional importance of the Mara ecosystem, and in recognition of the challenges it’s was facing ,the tenth meeting of the sectorial Council of ministers for Lake Victoria Basin( drawn from the five patner states of EAC) sitting in Kigali Rwanda in 2012 declared every 15th of September Mara day.

This day would coincide with the great migration of wildlife from Serengeti national park in Tanzania to Masai Mara national game reserve in Kenya.

The aim of this pronouncement was to advocate for the need to involve all the stakeholders in the sustainable development and management of the Mara river Basin.

Through the coordination of the LVBC ,so far five such celebrations have been marked with the last one having been in Butiama in Tanzania. The first Mara day celebrations was held five years ago in Mulot in Kenya.

Because of the visibility arising from the Mara day celebrations, alot of gains are already being realized socially, economically and environmentally.

Speaking during this year’s Mara day celebrations at Bomet County which hosted the event, Dr. Matano said there was increased commitments from the two governments of Kenya and Tanzania which benefits directly from the shared resource.

Public and private sector engagement and commitments has also gone up in the conservation of the Mara river Basin . Private sector engagement for instance increased from three per cent to fifty five per cent .

” This year most of funds were provided by the government of Kenya, Narok and Bomet county governments and private sector. This shows the sustainability towards improved management of Mara river basin’s resources ” said Dr Matano.

Political and technical commitment has also increased in joint management of Mara ecosystem arising from the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Kenya and Tanzania in September last year.

More intervention arising from the increased support from development partners and stakeholders has also been noticed.

Amongst other things there is increased participation of hoteliers in the Mara river Basin through the established Mara Serengeti transboundary hoteliers forum with over ten hotels in both Masai Mara and Serengeti.

Today there is more recognition of the role of the water users associations and catchment committees. For example the water resource users board in Kenya has scoped two international awards, one in 2012 from Equatorial Initiatives and the other in 2014 international river foundation of Australia.

Alot of studies have also been undertaken in the Basin with very useful information and recommendations which the two governments can use to formulate science backed policies for sustainable development of this critical ecosystem.

Atleast 540 farmers now have improved incomes due to payment of ecosystem services model as a pilot scheme in the Mara region of the two countries.

It has also witnessed enhanced partnerships between the public, civil society and private sectors in sustainable conservation of the river as the lifeline of the economies of the two EAC States.

The restoration of the 100 km along the river banks by increased tree cover has given aboost to the once degraded area .

Five sub catchments of Nyangores, Amala,Tabora ,Tigithe and Maisha Bora have been restored thus improving productivity and water quality.

Kenya despite having only six per cent of Lake Victoria hosts several drainage basins that contribute huge amounts of water into Lake Victoria. Mara river contribute five per cent of the waters into Lake Victoria.

The Mara Basin which covers over 13000 square kilometers is a very critical ecosystem to both Kenya and Tanzania in terms of its contribution to the social economic development of the two.

Unlike other river basins in Kenya which are intra States, Mara river traverse between Kenya and Tanzania with a length of about 400km starting from Enapuyapui wetlands in the Mau water tower and eventually draining into lake Victoria in Musoma Tanzania.

Being a shared regional resource,it has to be prudently managed to ensure equity for both upstream and downstream users.

This year the event to celebrate Mara day at Bomet stadium was attended by a high powered team of government officials including Permanent secretaries from Kenya and Tanzania. The Chief guest was Kenya’s water minister Eugene Wamalwa. The Governors of Narok and Bomet were also present.

Activities such as road shows,visit of conservation sites, community awareness seminars, exhibitions ,and tree planting in selected sites within the host county were coordinated by LVBC and other partners days before the Mara day celebrations whose theme was ” conservation of the Mara Basin, my responsibility ” ..

End.
African Press International, (API)

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