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Columnists

Act fast to rein in wanton cutting of trees in our forests

We need to restore the country’s water towers. FILE PHOTO | NMG
We need to restore the country’s water towers. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Only last week there was an alarm about the drought situation in the country. It even drew the attention of the highest office in the land with the government issuing a-90-ban on logging to help arrest the wanton destruction of the forest cover.

Less than two days later on Sunday, social media was awash with photos of floods various parts of the country including sections of the Mai Mahiu-Narok road. These extreme weather conditions highlight the massive task we face in conserving our environment.

Rainfall patterns have become unpredictable though they still largely follow the old cycle of the long and short rain seasons.

And even with the changing climatic conditions, a lot of water still goes to waste through surface runoff into lakes and oceans. But why such wastage even when the country is becoming water scarce? The answer is so simple — lack of rainwater harvesting strategy.

It is high time we took rain harvesting more seriously. Technically water management is a devolved function but counties alone cannot deal with this problem. It requires the rallying of national government financial resources, political goodwill, community sensitisation to curb water shortage. The US, for example, has 80,000 dams.

Dams are expensive to build but Kenya has an option to dig cheaper water pans to help hold surface runoff and save the citizenry some pain due to drought.

Narok town offers an example of how bad we are in terms of water management because the town repeatedly gets marooned by floods yet the State has an option to build dams and stop the water from getting to the town.

Harnessing rainwater around Narok would kill two birds with the same stone in that besides stopping flooding in the town, it would ensure the bare dry plains that surround it have access to stored water.

When Burkina Faso was faced with water shortages due to deforestation, a military captain, Thomas Sankara, took a decisive action to reclaim the country’s lost forest cover and kick-off a massive tree planting campaign. This helped take the country back to its green nature after several years of desertification.

Kenya should take such decisive steps because degradation of forest cover can cause serious conflict among communities and become a national security challenge if it is not tackled in good time.

The water situation in Kenya is a big deal not just for the country but to a host of other nations that depend on shared water sources such as Lake Victoria.

Kenya is one of the biggest contributors to waters of River Nile that Egypt relies on for domestic and industrial use. It is in the interest of countries such as Egypt that water catchment areas in Kenya are conserved and used prudently.

The Environment and the Agriculture ministries must show leadership in the restoration of water towers.

The gesture by the Environment ministry to appoint a task force to look into resource management and ongoing activities in Kenya’s major forests is laudable but this should be followed by action.

Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is not new to matters environment, having participated in Nile Basin talks. A lot of input should come from him in the restoration of the country’s water towers.

Apopo Lantana is Safety and environment expert.

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