Source of Mara River to be gazzetted as wetland and exotic trees cleared
March 11, 2020
Enapuiyapui Swamp at Kiptunga Forest Block in East Mau Water Tower will be gazzetted as wetland and enlisted as Ramsar Site following a declaration by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Mr Keriako Tobiko. In his speech during the World Wetlands Day celebrations held at the Swamp on 2nd February, Tobiko directed National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to speed up its gazzettement as a wetland and asked Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to fast-track its listing as a Ramsar Site. This means that the Swamp is going to receive special attention in terms of conservation and resource allocation.
The Swamp is the heartbeat of the Mara River that breathes life into Maasai Mara National Park globally acclaimed as the 8th Wonder of the World due to its unique migration of wildebeest to and from Serengeti Game Reserve in Tanzania. Sandwiched between Nakuru and Narok counties, the Swamp has continued to face human-induced threats following encroachments by various communities, increased charcoal burning and illegal tree felling.
Commercial tree farming has also been the greatest threat to this critical resource following the replacement of indigenous trees with exotic ones such as eucalyptus and pine trees. This has robbed the Swamp its integrity and curtailed its ability to discharge sufficient flow of water downstream. “I am giving Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Water Towers Agency one month to cut all exotic trees and plant indigenous trees around this Swamp. During the same time, they should also map out the exact size of this Swamp and other small swamps in this forest block” Tobiko directed.
The Ogiek and Maasai communities living around and within the forest were instructed not to graze their cattle in the surrounding area to allow natural regeneration to take place. The communities were asked to practice environmentally friendly farming like bee keeping and desist from planting any crops in the forest. To ensure that these communities practiced beekeeping, Mr Tobiko asked the heads of agencies present to donate beehives to the communities. Ministry of Environment and Forestry, NEMA, County Government of Nakuru, County Government of Narok, East Africa Community under Lake Victoria Basin Commission and Kenya Forest Service each donated 100 beehives. Kenya Water Towers Agency sponsored 450 beehives, while National Environment Trust Fund (NETFund), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority (ENSDA) and Narok Water Company each sponsored 50 beehives. National Environmental Complaints Committee promised to also deliver 30 beehives to the communities. The communities were further tasked to plant silibwet indigenous trees in the forest after they complained that it was rich in honey-making nectar but was cleared overtime. Kenya Water Towers Agency was further tasked to educate the communities on sustainable beekeeping practices.
Enapuiyapui Swamp is the source of five major rivers flowing to three lakes. These are the Mara (Lake Victoria), Nderit and Rongai (Lake Baringo), Molo and Njoro (Lake Nakuru). Other than the Mara River supporting the Masai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti Ecosystem, the waters drain to Lake Victoria which forms a key source to River Nile that serves millions of people in Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. “Enapuiyapui Swamp is of great importance to the East Africa Community” Dr Ali Said Matano, Executive Secretary of Lake Basin Commission emphasized. Following this great importance of the Swamp, Kenya Water Towers Agency provided 5,000 bamboo seedlings that were planted around the Swamp. Bamboo is a conservation grass that has ability to store and release water steadily into the ground making it the best plant for the water sources such as Enapuiyapui.
World Wetlands Day occurs annually on February 2nd, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 when a small group of environmentalists signed an international agreement at the Ramsar Convention in Iran. This year, the National Committee on World Wetlands Day chose Enapuiyapui Swamp in support of the Governments effort in conserving Mau Forest Complex Water Tower. In 2018 and 2019, the Government of Kenya recovered 21,000 hectares in Maasai Mau Water Tower from encroachers. Tree planting is still ongoing as the government aims at achieving the target of planting 10 million indigenous trees. So far, one million tree seedlings have been planted and 4.5 million seeds dispersed using aerial seeding technology.