World Wetlands Day – a school celebrates and hopes


A school in Western Kenya hosted celebrations marking World Wetlands Day (WWD) on February 4, hoping that the government will seize the opportunity to conserve the nation’s wetlands and use them to develop tourism.

It was a hope shared by many across Kenya as WWD was marked by speeches, bands and speakers at
Ombaka Primary School in Kisumu County. The event began with youths leading a procession marching to the melodies of a band with banners reflecting this year’s theme for WWD-“Wetlands and Tourism”.

It calls for the delivery of Vision 2030, the nation’s blueprint for the future, as far as tourism development is concerned. Like many relationships the one between tourism and wetlands is very complex and it entails understanding these intricacies to effectively plan, develop and manage wetlands.

The Nyando District Commissioner, clearly seeing beyond the horizon, echoed that wetlands need to be demarcated and boundaries made clear to prevent encroachment, otherwise there will be no more wetlands in the country that may contribute to the delivery of Vision 2030.

Hopefully, with the directive that the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) was given in March 2011, more wetlands will be identified, demarcated and protected. WRMA has so far done this for 20 wetlands through Water Resource Users Associations (WRUAs). The WRMA rules are very instrumental in the implementation of this initiative as they consider wetlands as water sources with riparian areas.

Speaking of riparian areas, the Director General- National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) urged farmers to respect these areas and keep from farming within riparian zones and inside wetlands. There are penalties to this; imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a fine not exceeding 500,000 Kenya shillings or both according to the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999. Some question whether this penalty is enough for the level of destruction of wetlands in our country.

To add to this, more sentiments were shared on the quality of water getting into our wetlands. It is true that over the years, priority has been given to water supply. Higher priority needs to be given to waste water treatment as measure to curb the free flow of waste water into our water bodies; a factor that has clearly destabilized the functionality of wetland ecosystems.


The need to explore sustainable activities in collaboration with relevant government agencies, parastatals and Nongovernmental organizations was called for in a bid to improve livelihoods at the same time conserve wetlands. The relevant agencies have made an effort to allocate budgets to the tune of over 64 million Kenya Shillings to see to it that they work with communities to develop and implement sustainable programmes for wetland areas, hopefully in an attempt to deliver Vision 2030, create awareness as well as focus on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). The NEMA board has already approved ICZM policies which are awaiting cabinet approval.


By Catherine Yaa, Kenya Wetlands Forum

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Kenya Wetlands Forum (Secretariat) is housed at The East African Wildlife Society (EAWS).

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