A lake lies on its deathbed
Posted Tuesday, December 8 2009 at 22:00
- Drought and human activity join forces to drain off 85 per cent of Elementaita
The short rains that pounded the larger Nakuru District for a few days in August, September and November were greeted with a sigh of relief.
For a while, residents and tourists marvelled at the replenished Lake Elementaita that had dried up due to the long drought, destruction of its catchment area and the effects of the much publicised climate change.
But their joy was short-lived, as the lake, home to thousands of lesser flamingoes, is on its deathbed again, with more than 80 per cent of it having dried up.
Other lakes such as Nakuru, Naivasha, Baringo, Solai, Bogoria and Turkana, all in the Rift Valley, have also been affected although Elementaita is the worst hit due to its shallowness.
For years, the bright pink lake gave travellers using the Nairobi highway a great view through the dry scrubland that stretches from Naivasha Town to Nakuru.
Motorists would stop by the road to savour the sight that blends the pink colour of thousands of flamingoes with those of pelicans feeding in the shadow waters and the blue colour of the waters.
Others, unable to resist the magnificent sight, would drive down to the lake shore for a closer look and to take pictures.
But that was over a year ago as the protracted drought drained the lake after the rivers that replenish it dried up.
The lake is almost no more. The former expanse of water has been reduced to a puddle at the lake centre, where a few hundred determined birds still huddle to get their last pecks at the fast declining marine organisms that form their diet.
Motorists still look out of their windows, not with awe any more, but with a tinge of sadness to see what man can do to the environment.
And they are not alone. Scientists and conservationists are similarly alarmed and view the drying up of the lake as a major blow to an important ecosystem that is both a treasured national heritage and a major tourist attraction.
And the lake’s predicament could not have come at a worse time, what with the plans underway to declare the lake a World Heritage Site.
Kenya Wildlife Service research scientist Bernard Kuloba says Lake Elementaita, before being ravaged by the drought, was a vital breeding ground for the pelicans that live in Lake Nakuru National Park, located scores of kilometres away.
“The pelicans, which are a major tourist attraction here in Lake Nakuru, breed in Elementaita, and its drying up will have a negative impact on the pelicans’ reproduction cycle,” he said.
Apart from being a nesting place for pelicans, the lake has been home to thousands of flamingos, many of which have since fled to other saline lakes within the Rift Valley such as Nakuru, Bogoria, Magadi and Natron.