Mara River threatened

August 10th, 2009 | by Nick |

Wildebeest migration crossing the Mara river por BrianScott.
Photo by Brian Scott (CCL)

The Mara River is famed for one of most spectacular wildlife events in the world, the crossing of hundreds thousands of wildebeest and other animals on their annual migration. But this year the river is drying up. Parts of the river which were as deep as five feet last year are today just narrow channels. It may be easier for the wildebeest to avoid the crocodiles waiting for them in the river, but the drying up of the Mari could  be a sign of a fast-approaching environmental disaster for Kenya and Tanzania. Further upstream, Kenya’s country’s great lakes are also at their lowest levels on record, threatening agriculture and the flower industry.

The cause of the River Mara’s drying, other rivers, and the general drought conditions, lies upstream in the Mau forest, the largest remaining forest in Kenya. The Mau forest functions as a water supply for the East African country, feeding rivers and helping to regulate rainfall. This year, however,  they have been alarming reports that the Mau forest eco-system is undergoing a relentless onslaught from illegal loggers and land-grabbing farmers, including large and small recipients of political patronage. The result is a devastating fragmentation of what environmentalists call an ecological utility whose services stretch from watering Kenya’s tea estates to feeding the rivers powering its hydroelectric plants, and regulating temperature and rainfall throughout an often arid land. Kenya, meanwhile, has systematically ignored warnings over the importance of conserving the Mau forest, despite being home to the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme. The veteran Kenyan green campaigner and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai believes the destruction of the Mau and other forests is possibly more damaging to the region than climate change.”Life is unsustainable in East Africa without these environmental services from forests,” she says. It could also seriously affect the Serengeti leading to the loss of tourism dollars. There is scientific agreement on the importance of restoring the Mau for both Kenya’s economy and environment, but vested interests have so far managed to block better protection.

More in The Independent

On the same story recently

  • Over 2,400 hippos in the Mara River are in danger because of a sharp drop in water levels. The water level, directly blamed on the Mau destruction, is said to be the lowest ever witnessed. All Africa
  • Mau reforestation drive gets boost (East African Business Daily) “East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Nation Media Group (NMG), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Green Belt Movement, and Equity Bank have commissioned an initiative to raise Sh300 million over the next three years, which will be used in the restoration of Mau forest. The Save the Mau Fund aims at planting one million seedlings in the catchment area as well as mooting campaigns to raise awareness on reforestation.
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