By Dan Kaburu, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, Media Max.
Published 27 July 2018.
Locals worried as one of world’s largest soda ash producer dries up as soil washes to the water body
Lake Magadi, one of the world’s largest sources of soda ash is facing the risk of extinction in the next ten years due to massive siltation.
Findings of a recent study by a multi-agency technical team show that the Suswa-Lake Magadi ecosystem has been under serious ecological threat during the last decade.
Both the depth and area of the lake is decreasing due to sedimentation. The northern part is the most affected as it is silted with a nine-foot layer of soil on the surface.
People Daily visited Suswa in Kajiado county where the siltation threatening the lake is said to come from. In Ole Sharo village, Mzee Ole Punyua, is a worried man.
Punya said he has lost half of his thirty-acre farm after it was washed away during the last rain season, and he is uncertain of the remaining farm in the next rain season.
“Even now if you stay here for thirty minutes, you will see dust in the air and think it is a bomb, it is not a bomb, our farms are disintegrating to Lake Magadi, we are worried about the future of our children,” he said.
During a spot check at the lake, we found trucks at the dry section of the water body removing silt. More than 8,000 tonnes of silt enters the lake after every storm causing a huge accumulation of silt soil from the upstream of Narok being deposited at Lake Magadi basin.
The major cause of siltation is environmental degradation in the upper and middle catchment where huge parcels of land are opened for cultivation, charcoal burning and overgrazing causing soil erosions. Other contributing factors to the siltation are infrastructural developments that have taken place over the last decade including the Mai Mahiu-Narok road and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
As a result, more than 8,000 tonnes of silt enters the lake after every storm causing a huge accumulation of silt soil.
Locals are now worried the lake‑ whose economic significance cannot be overemphasised—could dry up. The Natural resource earns the economy over Sh9 billion annually through exports of soda ash. Also, up to 60 per cent of inland cargo trucked to Mombasa by Kenya Railway company through the old meter gauge is soda ash from Lake Magadi.
It is also the single largest consumer of Heavy furnace oil (HFO) and Second largest consumer of fuel oil nationally.
The resource is a source of livelihood for over 60,000 local residents through direct employment, water provision, education, health services and support for small and medium enterprises
- Read the original story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.