Research show that most natural disasters are influenced by humans as a result of negligence and human error among other factors; For example, landslides can be triggered by seasonal rainfall, compounded by deforestation, manmade quarries at mid-slope or at the foot of the slope as well as sand harvesting.
In Kenya, flooding and landslides have been on the increase in the recent past aswitnessed in ElgeyoMarakwet, Mukurueini in nyeri, Kisii, Mombasa, Nairobi as well as other parts of the country
We have seen the government scramble in rescue and recovery efforts in the affected areas and trying to put preventative measures in place. However,another clique in the same government isdoing quite the opposite.
Take an example of Nyahururu in Laikipia County where the government officials allotted forest land adjacent to the famous Thompsons Falls on the EwasoNyiro river to a private land developer who have destroyedthis indigenous forest, dug quarries and illegally harvest sand in areas that should be protect to avoid natural disaster.
This privatedeveloper has not only destroyed the 20 hectares ofindigenous forest adjacent to the fallsbut has constructeda gigantic Panari Resort so cross to the Ewasoriver destroying the wetlands in total violation of wetland protection and zoning restrictions.
Constructiontoo cross to the riverdestroys wetlands and is also a violation of zoning restrictions
TheEwasoriver, is the only river that pours to the famous Thomson’s falls and the wetlands have always acted as a buffer to slow the river during the rainy season to avoid floods.
The river is also a home of Hippopotamus and they bread in the wetlands a few yards from the falls. But the construction and destruction of the wetlands will not only be catastrophic to the life of the hippos and the eco system but will be a greatly contribute to thecauseof soil erosion and mud slides downstream which will eventually result in to loss of human life.
Why preserve and protected wetlands:
Wetlands is not only the water at a river bank but include swamps, marshes, bogs, mangroves, floodplains etc.
Wetlands performvital ecological functions that can’t be ignored.
- water purification: Wetlands protect water quality by trapping sediments and retaining excess nutrients and other pollutants such as heavy metals
- Flood protection: Wetlands provide some measure of flood protection by holding the excess runoff after a storm, and then releasing it slowly and the wetland soil acts as a sponge, holding much more water than other soil types.
- Shoreline stabilization. Wetlands help protect the shoreline soils from the erosive forces of waves and currents. And the wetland plants act as a buffer zone by dissipating the water’s energy and providing stability by binding the soils with their extensive root systems.
- Habitat for fish and wildlife, including endangered species.
With the above benefits and many more not listed here, it is clear that destroying wetlandsis destroying mankind.
But with all this benefits, one wonders why this private developer disregarded all the benefits but rather decided to cause havoc in this quiet Ewaso river.
The changes in land use associated with urban development affect flooding. Panari resort is being constructed a few meters from the river.
When I was growing up, I saw trucks and caterpillars in our neighborhood and before long, there were big quarry or a waterless man- made dams left uncovered and became a public menace.
But today, Kenya has changed. It has a new constitution and county government. Government that is close to the people and even closer to reverberate the environment.
But this has not been so. This private land developer has not stopped in forest destruction but has also curved in another areafurther insidethe forest and away from the public eyes to harvest sand to use in the construction along the river, with no regard to the ecosystem or the future of the Thomson’s falls.
The only bridge that carry water to the falls is now being narrowed by the buildings on its shoulders.
Obstruction of the river flow:
Bridges or other developments along the river usually encroach the floodplainand narrow the river path which can in-returnwater backs up upstream causing flooding.
Narrowing the width of the riverincreases the water resistance. With the size of a bridge seen above which the picture was taken on a very dry spell almost always causes an overflow even prior to this new development.Now compounded by constructions on both side of the river is a time bomb awaiting to go off and cause catastrophic damage in the near future.
This construction will exposedthe entire areato flooding and the most immediate threat are the people living upstream in manguo area. I wonder whether they see it coming or simply, they do not know who to turn to. The Manguo area has always been affected by flooding during the rainy season, but with the new construction havoc is just about to happen.
Think about debris carried by flood waters fromup stream and deposited at this tiny bridge. Clogging this bridge will constrict water at this bridge result, creating a backwater that will inundate a larger area upstream.
Take the example of some areas of mbagathi and nairobi west where a section of Mutuini-Ngong River has been blocked by the perimeter wall of a building under construction on the river’s path.
The constructions on both sides of theEwasoriver will narrow the water path as well as destroy the floodplains which will be detrimental during the heavy rains as the water backs- up causing flooding upstream and probably destroying some of this structures being elected.
This constructions, coupled with Torrential down power and blocked water pathway will cause the river to change course and flood in areas that we least expect. Manguo residents living a few meters upstream may be our first casualties in the near future unless the government takes action now.
The harvested sand is being used to level the grounds for construction as seen from the picture above.
A forest where animals once grazed and ecosystem flourished is now an open space where trucks carry away the forest one load at a time, supplying the sand to the private contractor to flatten the Panari Resort.
Quarrying & sand harvesting:
One of the biggest negative impacts of quarrying on the environment is the damage to biodiversity. The living species, insects, invertebrates, reptiles, birds, mammals, plants, fungi and even micro-organisms are all destroyed.
Another danger of quarrying is death by drowning:
Quarries are dangerous and deadly places. They are the number one cause of death by drowning. In any typical year many deaths occur in abandoned quarries when people go to swim not knowing that quarries are extremely dangerous places to swim and such accidents can be prevented if the people would know the dangers and if the governments would do more, by improving programs for reclaiming or regulating these quarries.
This particular quarry has been curved from the forest and is on the government property but ironically, it’s behind a residential area and a school and is also accessible from the main road, the school and the public, it constitutes a danger to the community.
One would have expected the private developer to return the land to a condition similar to before the sand harvesting was done or in an alternative condition which should have been specified in their approved sand harvesting permit. But this is government property destroyed in secrete hence the perpetrators cannot elect a sign to say, “No Trespassing or properly elect a barrier designed to prevent any person or animal from accidently falling into this quarry.
Effect on human health:
Water in quarries does not flow or circulate becoming mosquito’s breeding grounds.
Dangerous algae can also grow in such water causing a dangerous infection to the swimmers.
Submerged plants, dead animals and excrement, rubbish may cause pollution in the residential area and also making the only available water very dangerous for consumption.
Although quarries are a driving force behind development in every county by providing the raw materials for new buildings and roads, legal procedures must be followed to ensure safety.
Therefore, since the government is the owner of this said property, it should take responsibility and act before peopl get hurt.
This quarry is a stone throw from human settlement and a hazard to both human and livestock.
Quarried hillsides are less able to absorb rainwater than deforested ones. This contributes to flooding in low-lying areas making floods more severe.
Deforestation has already made the country vulnerable to flooding and erosion, illegal sand quarries amplify the problem. This sand quarry inside the forest away from the public eyes but too close to human settlement which can spell disaster
Unregulated growth of sand quarrying is literally eroding the country’s environmental systems and could spell serious trouble if nothing is done.
The most ironical thing is the entire destruction is a stone throwaway from ecosystem conservators office. One would wonder whether the ecosystem conservator is part of destroying the same thing he/she is supposed to protect.
The ecosystem conservator, thepanari resort developers, the charcoal burners, sand excavation trucks all share the same entrance and the same compound.
Tree cutting and charcoal burning a few yards from EwasoNyiroriver:
EwasoNyiroriver has experienced extensive degradation in the past as a result of deforestation, encroachment into water catchment areas, cultivation in wetlands and over-grazing which resulted in the river drying down- stream.
This rapid drying triggered a debate in parliament on the measures to preserve this river because of its rapid drying.
In in 1998 ADB Africa Development Bank funded a study at a cost of Kenya shillings 100 Million shillings to do a study on how to preserve this river and the results were..
The river was drying because of Human settlements in water catchments, Destruction of forests in such areas, Poor land use and Illegal water obstruction
17 years later the private developers has come with vengeance to destroy all that was left and bring such studies to naught.