Experts have warned of an impending 'environmental and ecological catastrophe' after Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes reached their highest levels since independence.
The Rift Valley runs through eastern Africa from Ethiopia to Malawi. The vast geological formation is dotted with scores of lakes, some alkaline, and others freshwater.
After heavy rains this year, many of the lakes broke their banks, flooding the surrounding land, washing away houses, farms and cattle.
Lakes Nakuru, Naivasha, Baringo and Bogoria are at record levels, and at least 5,000 people have been forced to flee their homes so far this year.
At Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya’s Wild Service are reportedly racing against time to relocate zebras, rhinos, buffaloes, and gazelles away from the waters.
A spokesperson for Kenya’s Water Resources Authority (WRA) told The Telegraph that twelve of the country’s major lakes were at their highest levels since 1963 when Kenya became independent from Britain.
Josh Oruta, a senior hydrologist at the WRA, said that deforestation in the local catchment area and sediment wash off from the bare land were to blame.
Widespread deforestation means that the rain flows off the land more quickly overloading the lakes, while the sediment slowly fills up the lake bottom, leading to rising water levels.
Mr Oruta said that climate change was also most probably paying a role, making Kenya wetter. But he emphasised that researchers were still gathering data on the topic.
Officials are worried that as the lakes rise, some of the Rift Valley’s alkaline, salty lakes could soon overflow into freshwater systems, destroying wildlife and agriculture.
One major concern is Lake Bogoria, a saline lake in western Kenya which is at points home to up to 1.2m flamingoes. Bogoria is only a few miles away from Lake Baringo, a vast freshwater lake.
Both are now slowly expanding towards each other. If they met it would be an “environmental and ecological catastrophe,” warned Mr Oruta.
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