Climate change is perhaps one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time, which poses serious threats to eco systems, water resources and human growth.
In Kenya, flooding and prolonged drought are one of the major impacts of climate change that continue to affect our social and economic development.
Environmental degradation and specifically deforestation has led to Kenya losing 2.8 percent of its forest cover in the period starting 1990 thus threatening the sustainability of a nation dependent on this water towers.
Because of the alarming rate at which water levels in major rivers continue to drop, the government recently (in February) temporarily banned logging and timber harvesting in public forests for three months.
This is one of the many steps being undertaken by government, corporates and individuals to preserve water towers which play a critical role of providing fresh water downstream.
Kenya depends on five major water towers, the Aberdares, Cherangani Hills, Mau Complex, Mt. Elgon and Mt. Kenya. These forests provide 75 percent of Kenya’s water resources and harbor rare and exotic species of plants and animals.
That water towers are a vital national asset is beyond doubt. They influence broad factors like climate change, the water towers help in water storage, recharge of groundwater; river flow regulation; flood mitigation; control of soil erosion and reduced siltation of water bodies.
The rivers flowing from the water towers are the lifeline for major conservation areas in the lowlands. These are key tourism destination areas, such as Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Nakuru National Park and Samburu National Reserve.
Amid increased logging and encroachment, the government is set to gazette a total of 70 more water towers to improve the country’s forest cover. The new water towers will be part of existing forests and hills in Nyeri, Nyamira, Laikipia, Meru, Migori, Homa Bay, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana and Kajiado Counties.
However, efforts have been made over the years to grow Kenya’s forest cover and secure the available water towers. Fencing in Eburu block, Naivasha and Lake Nakuru National Park notably is meant to secure the Rift Valley block. In Imenti water tower there was a positive land cover change from a low of 7,822ha to 11,455ha. The fencing of the Aberdares water tower is complete while that of the Mt. Kenya water catchment area is underway. Fencing is also being completed in the Shimba Hills.
Kenya Forest Service is putting in effort towards achieving a 10 percent forest cover as proposed in the Kenyan Constitution and Kenya’s Vision 2030. Led by the C.S Keriako Tobiko, massive tree planting initiatives are underway to secure Kenya’s future.