Umani Springs - Will they survive?


The previous Swara issue (April- June) 2012, takes you through the dynamics of Umani springs and Kibwezi Forest in Kenya. In a nut shell, the survival of the springs and the ecosystem as a whole is uncertain due to the dreams we have for our people and our country. Good dreams hopefully with good intentions to ensure that our people have access to water. Water is life you know!

As much as we understand that water is a crucial resource that we all cannot do without, the question of abstraction and how much water is available for this in Umani springs is a scenario that may see all of us losing water and the assets that thrive on it. As a popular Swahili saying goes “Mtaka yote hukosa yote”

It is encouraging when sentiments are shared that the ecosystem approach of managing natural resources is very important, unfortunately this aspect is always put on the sidelines when it comes to making decisions as far as development projects are concerned. Focus then shifts to the results of an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study that was done in 2009 and revised in 2011 with water flow measurements for May and December 2010 recorded as 0.630 cumecs and 0.954 cumecs respectively in Umani Springs. This is against an average flow measure of 0.164 cumecs comprising from data recorded over a period of 30 years by the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) with a minimum of 0.12 cumecs and maximum of 0.279 cumecs.

To suddenly find data recorded in May 2010 is four times greater than the average and a December 2010 figure is even six times greater than the average sounds a gong more so because these results are the basis of the on-going Mtito Andei project where pipes are being laid to supply water to the community. Given the current scenario where the ecosystem is showing vital signs of receding ground water levels and wetlands as well as tree mortality despite the recent rains then one may stop and ask whether the water available is enough for the people and for nature, what will happen to the future generations of the communities without adequate water supply sources, what does this mean for the tourism industry and Vision 2030, who is the loser when there is no source for water supply and finally has a study been done to check for alternative sources that will not compromise the integrity and functionality of ecosystems?

With all these questions racing through one’s mind, it is encouraging to know that relevant government institutions that East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) and Kenya Wetlands Forum (KWF) has engaged, namely; National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) are very keen on this matter with respect to their mandates and that is why EAWLS and KWF propose that;

1. An independent peer review to check the results of the study is done
2. Authorizations for the Mtito Andei water project be withdrawn immediately until we get the outcome of the independent peer review evaluation
3. Considerations be given for the redesign of the project based on the results of the independent peer review
4. Installation of proper monitoring equipment to ensure sustainable management of water off take


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