Sunday, November 21, 2010

0 ‘Streams - Many smalls makes big’

This is a continuation of my previous post ‘Going going gone:…..’. Often, we tend to blame others, droughts, floods, bad omen or climate change for our environmental woes. But the fact is, most of environmental degradation is 'our own doing'. First, we need to take individual responsibility of our actions and also collective responsibility as a nation. The suggestions outlined here are collective, most of them on policy.

Allow me to correlate the wetlands and watersheds areas to roads. In our Kenyan Road Network, we have Class A Roads – linking Kenya to neighbouring countries. Class B Roads link major cities and towns. These two road classes are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Roads and Kenya National Highways Authority, for maintenance and infrastructural development. Others roads fall under the Kenya Rural Roads Authority and local government through municipals and town councils, as well as constituency funding. Correlating this road network to our wetlands and watersheds environments gives us the following: Major water towers (e.g. Mau  Complex, Mt. Kenya, Cherangani Hills, Mt. Elgon, Aberdare Ranges) and minor water towers, Big and small rivers and their catchments; Lakes, dams, swamps and marshes, springs and streams. As in the case of Class A and B roads, the major watersheds and rivers are taken care of the central government through the relevant ministries. Management of such environments requires an integrated approach that involves all stakeholders on the ground. Disparity comes in at the level of the local small rivers, springs and streams. Here, nobody seems to bother. While these are the ones that feed to the big rivers like Tana River for instance, hence being of great economic value to the nation, we only tend to see the Tana in our 'narrow' watershed management plans. We fail to see Rathithi stream, Gakui stream and Gakui spring for example, while they are the ones that recharge River Tana.

Apparently then, a river is not like a road, because if the feeder road is passable, we will still see traffic in the main, possibly tarmacked road. That does not apply with rivers. Reduced water in the stream directly means reduced volume in the main river in a direct relationship. We have to see it that way, in order to think and plan backwards.  Kenya is investing heavily on alternative electric power sources such as Geothermal and Wind Electric Power Production. Nevertheless, the country still relies heavily on Hydro-Electric Power (HEP) in its national grid and this is likely to be so for a long time to come. To get HEP, we need volume flowing through our rivers, and wisdom call us to protect the sources and tributaries of ALL rivers. Otherwise one day we wake up and darkness, factories and industries have to work half day, jobs and families are affected etc as power is rationed. Woe unto us if we think distributing free Energy Saving Bulbs can help us. Is it sustainable? That's like taking a pill for headache, heals the symptom alright, but the disease the root cause, is still there. I'd rather we use such funds to plant more trees and create awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving the watersheds.

How do we protect our springs, and the streams that the central government cannot take care of because of their apparent small size and ‘insignificance’? Over to you. I will be glad to hear about your local springs, streams and rivers...........and what local people are doing to save them!

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