THE DYING LAKE OL’BOLOSAT
Ol’Bolosat is a Maasai word that means a “Marshy area”, Lake Ol’Bolosat is the only natural lake in central Kenya located in Nyandarua County on the northwestern side of the Aberdare ranges. The lake forms the headwaters for the Ewaso Ng'iro River, which supports the livelihoods of communities, livestock and wildlife in the dry Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa Counties. The fresh and saltwater lake is a habitat for Tilapia, Catfish, hippopotamus and over 300 bird species (both residents and migrants) which have disappeared over the years. The Ewaso Nyiro River has supported the thriving wildlife tourism in Buffalo Springs, Shaba National Reserve and Lorian swamp in Wajir, where the river goes underground to re-emerge in Somalia where it joins the Jubba River.
The lake affects the lives of people along the Ewaso Ng’iro basin, the downstream (Ewaso Ng’iro) has been drying faster towards the upper side. Death is coming and it’s coming from downstream upstream, conflicts over natural resources have increased downstream causing many deaths, one of these resources that is very crucial to both humans and wildlife is water. Their main source of water is Lake Ol’Bolosat whose death is the death of the millions of people in Northern Kenya.
On our quest to find out the cause of the drying Ewaso ng’iro river, we visited Lake Ol’Bolosat where we met one elder who is a resident of an area (Ol Joro Orok) next to the lake and this is what he had to say “this lake has been declining over a period of time, the severe drought has had it completely dry. Community encroachment with activities like farming has also played a big role in the death of this lake, the northern side of the lake has become a very thin and muddy strip”
Residents have encroached the land around the Lake and put up homes, they look at the lake as the only source of water because they do not harvest water. Most of them are agro-business people growing horticultural plants, they obstruct water by using gravity pipes and portable pumps especially during dry seasons to divert water directly from the lake for irrigation. These obstructions upstream from the lake that feeds into the Ewaso ng’iro river have caused a permanent loss to it, in that some parts of the river have no water passing from upstream at all.
The people upstream are killing the Lake and people who depend on it at the expense of unsustainable irrigation systems.