The second part of a first-hand account from Shweta Narayan, GCM’s Regional Trainer, on her return Bucket Brigade training trip to Kenya.

Day 2: 27 July 2010

Exploring Elsamere and getting to know about pollution problem in the region:

The workshop is to start tomorrow and all the participants and folks from RECONCILE (the Co-organisers of the training) are likely to arrive by evening today. This means that I have almost the entire day to explore Elsamere study center and also get to know more about the problems that the lake is facing due to the pollution in the region.

After breakfast, I decided to take a walk around the campus, went to the Joy and George Adomson Museum, walked on the shores of Lake Naivasha and was greeted by Columbus and Vivet species of monkeys native of this part of the country.

After lunch Susan and I sat down and discussed more in detail about the problems that the lake was facing due to pollution. I was told that the key threats to the lake came from flower farms, the workers’ settlement on the shores of lake and large scale appropriation of lake land for farming.

There had been a major incident of fish kill in the lake about three months ago and pesticide discharge from one of the flower farms was suspected to be the key cause of it. Locals reported that one of the farms disposed a large quantity of unused pesticide by simply draining into the lake, thus poisoning the waters and killing the fish. Another explanation for this fish kill was that the high quantity of nutrients from the pesticides reduced the oxygen from the water thus causing the fish kill. A large quantity of bottom dwelling fish were found dead in this incident confirming the theory of declined oxygen in the waters.

I was also told that briefly after the incident the government officials were seen making rounds at the flower farms but this was mere formality to take the heat off the moment. “Everything has come back to as it was before a few months after the incident and no action was taken on anyone responsible for the disaster,” remarked one of the local persons.

I was told that pesticide discharges from the farms were very frequent and almost went unnoticed by the authorities.

Moreover another problem on the rise was the land use conflict. Over the years more and more lake land was being appropriated by private users for flower farming. Since Kenya’s flower exports were almost 75% of the total export from the East African region and it was seen as an important source of foreign exchange, there was very little political will to take action on the errant farms. The water from the lake was over extracted by the farms and the settlements around it thus threatening the survival of various species that depended on the lake.

Another problem that the region faces is that of pollution from the KenGen Geothermal Power Plant. The plant is located right inside the Hell’s Gate National Park. Locals report a strong odour of sulfurous emissions from the plant from outside the facility. This odour is constant through out the day according to some of the residents. The older of the two plants seem to be more problematic with odour emissions and constant release of smoke into the atmosphere.

Another major issue from this plant was the location of the web of pipelines to and from this plant inside the National Park. The above ground pipelines were a real hurdle and danger to the wild animals in the park causing a large number of injuries and at time deaths.

Most of the participants of the workshop are likely to arrive by tonight. Looking forward to interacting with them and documenting their stories of pollution and their struggle for a better environment and safer health.