Residents of Kisumu County today joined the rest of the world in celebrating the world wetlands day at Dunga wetlands ground.
The celebrations observed annually every 2nd of February brought on board stakeholders and members of the community concerned with environmental protection and conservation. These included: he county Government officials, BMUs, Friends of Dunga swamp, Kenya Forest Services, Water Resources Management Authority, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Kenya wildlife services, KIWASCO, Ecologist without borders, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institution (KMFRI), NEMA among other invited guest.
This year’s theme, Wetlands Action for People and Nature, highlights the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and nature. The slogan Our Wetlands, Our Responsibility, Our Future.is awake up call to all to play a role in conservation of the wetlands not only for themselves but even for the generations to come.
The event was marked with a beehive of activities such as procession from Impala Park to Dunga Hill camp, speeches, entertainments and broadcasting seeds along the swamp with a call to take action for wetlands, an appeal to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded.
Speaker after Speaker noted with great concern the ongoing destruction of the wetlands through human encroachment, illegal farming, and illegal construction of houses, dumping of non-biodegradable waste which contaminates the water.
The illegal activities have led to extinction of some wildlife in the area, some have resulted to human wildlife conflicts and pollution of the rivers with plastics and used diapers which eventually flow into the Lake and chokes the aquatic life. Moreover this contributes to diseases like cancer due to the contamination of water with heavy metals in as much as the water is treated.
While giving her speech, the Chief Guest who is also the Basin area Coordinator for Water Resources Authority, Dr. Rose Ogara said the wetlands include both inland and coastal wetlands such as marshes, ponds, mud plain swamps, salt water marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and papyrus which are liquid assets.
She reiterated that they are crucial natural resources, which help stabilize water resources, protect shore lines and recharge ground water aquifers
The day she added, raises awareness about vital role of wetlands as critically important ecosystem that contributes to biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation and fresh water availability.
Outlining the significance of wetland in Kenya she elaborated that they provide shelter to animals and plants species, fish for protein, rice, construction materials, fiber, medicine, dice for cloth textile, recharge of ground and surface water, drinking water. Control floods, sediments retention
She expressed the need to reestablish wetlands inventory, update, demarcate and peg them, sensitize community and awareness creation. Concerning the assessment of wetlands status, she urged a multi- agency to move with speed to assess, know their status and embark on their restoration of the degraded wetlands.
Sentiments shared by the DCC Mr. John Cheruiyot who said the multi-agency operational approach is the only way to enforce the laws. No single agency can achieve it on its own.
Her call to action to protect and conserve wetlands was relentless, advising the stakeholders to use the societal approach leaving no one behind. She challenged the current generation to take action based on the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, article 69 section 2 where every person has a duty to collaborate with stakeholder to protect the wetlands.
The City Manager, Mr. Abala Wanga vowed that the County Government will not relent on encroachment into the wetland areas. He called on those who are doing construction and farming in the wetlands to stop. He also sounded a warning to the Government agencies giving approvals for construction on wetlands to stop forthwith, being a conservation area.
The City Manager affirmed that notices have been issued and a third one will be issued.
“Once the County Cabinet has done the approvals and the wetlands gazzetted, we will bring all the constructions on the wetland down,” says Mr. Wanga
On his part, the CECM for Water, Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change Mr. Salmon Orimba said the County government is passionate about conservation and protection of wetlands due to its benefits.
He added that the county deals with the illegal activities at the wetlands guided by the structures in place, legal framework, and the legislative framework that exist cascaded from the National government wetlands management regulations of 2017 where the county derives its domesticated wetlands regulations and laws.
“We discourage illegal encroachment of individuals into the wetlands, we have legal instruments by NEMA and County Environment Committee. We go to court, engage, we sensitize, enforce mated on those who want to encroach on the wetlands” says Mr. Orimba
Erick Okioma resident of Nyalenda, and a member of Nelson Mandela TDHIV CBO, raised concern over the pollution of the lake with diapers, that chokes the lakes and rivers such as river Wigwa which drains into the lake making the depth shallow. He called on agencies to take action through the polluter pay principles the manufacturers can contribute towards educating the community on best disposal practices.
By: Emily Mikwa