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Case Study: Kenya.

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Case Study: Kenya Lake Nakuru National Park covers an area of 188 square kilometers on the floor of the Rift Valley in central Kenya. The lake itself occupies an area of 44 sq. km (0 22 S,36 05 E) at an altitude of 1,759 m above sea level. Lake Nakuru is one of a series of endorheic, hypereutrophic, alkaline-saline lakes in the eastern Rift Valley. Although it offers unfavorable conditions for most aquatic life (pH 10.5, conductivity from 9,000-160,000 uS, cyclical dry outs), a few specially adapted species form a very high producer and consumer biomass. Lake Nakuru is one of the main national parks of Kenya and famous worldwide for its bird life and for the spectacular assemblages of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) that congregate on the lake. Lesser flamingos account for approximately 78% of the world's total flamingo population, and the alkaline lakes of southern Kenya regularly hold between one-third and one-quarter of this population. Extremely large numbers of lesser flamingos have been recorded at Lake Nakuru. In July 1993, 1.5 million birds were on the lake. The high primary productivity of the lake makes it a key feeding ground for this species. In addition to flamingos, 51 other species of water birds occur on the lake and within its littoral fringe. Among these are several species of palearctic waders, ducks, and geese. With the highest diversity and number of wintering ducks per year, Lake Nakuru is an important stopover in the Rift Valley flyway for palearctic migrants (Finlayson and Pomeroy, 1990). Beyond the lake shore, 350 terrestrial bird species inhabit nine ecological niches within the national park. More bird species may live in Lake Nakuru National Park than in the entire British Isles. The bird life of the park together with 50 species of mammals, including the endangered Black Rhinoceros and the Rothschild Giraffe, and the 500 species of flora make Lake Nakuru National Park one of Kenya's most exciting concentrations of wildlife. ...read more.


Settlement initially took place on existing, large-scale farms bought from European owners. As the number of settlements increased over the next decade - a result of government initiatives, the formation of land-buying companies, and illegal occupation by squatters - they rapidly encroached into forest reserves. Between 1970 and 1986, more than 400 sq. km of forest and areas under natural vegetation were estimated to have been cleared for cultivation and settlement. Large holdings purchased from European owners were fragmented into smaller, individually owned parcels of land. The influx of peasant farmers continued into the 1980s and was finally stemmed by land scarcity and the unavailability of government funds for settlement schemes (Nakuru District Environmental Report, 1987). This rural-rural migration brought about a sudden and unprecedented upsurge in the catchment's population. In one of the earliest settlements, population density increased from 124 persons per sq. km in 1969 to 915 persons per sq. km in 1987 (WOODEC, 1987). Elsewhere in the catchment, rural population densities were lower. However, they continue to rise, from 164 persons per sq. km in 1979 to a projected 375 persons per sq. km in 1996. Estimates made from catchment maps of 1970 and 1986 (Figures 1 and 2 Note:Temporarily unavailable) reveal the extent of change in land use over that period. The maps show a decrease in the land under forest and natural vegetation from 47% of the catchment area to 26% of the area. Large-scale farms and ranches shrunk from 34% and 21% of the catchment area to 13% and 11%, respectively. Small-scale subsistence farms, which replaced these land-use types, grew from insignificant numbers to occupy over 35% of the area. Nakuru Municipality, located within a kilometer of the lake's northern shore, has expanded in size from an area of 8.5 sq. km in 1970 to its present size of 73 sq. km. Nakuru's population grew from 47,151 persons in 1969 to 92,880 in 1979. ...read more.


In general terms, the environmental effects of any land use increase with the intensity of use. No where in the catchment is land more intensively used than in the Nakuru Municipality. Like most industrial centers, Nakuru is a prodigious producer of waste. Liquid waste of domestic and industrial origin is treated in two sewage plants before being discharged into the lake. Waste-handling facilities for both domestic and industrial waste have not kept pace with the rate of production, thereby posing the threat of accumulation in the environment. The hydrological and pollution effects on the lake from increasing volumes of urban run-off is also worrisome. Recent analyses of storm water, sewage, and lake sediment have revealed the presence of heavy metals and pesticide residues. Both categories of pollutants are known to produce acute and chronic toxicities in birds and mammals. CONCLUSION From the point of view of a field practitioner, the most pressing problems confronting Lake Nakuru are threats to its water balance and water quality arising from human activity in its catchment basin. Several technical prescriptions have been suggested to counter these threats; some are being put into practice. Solutions advocated include improvements in population planning and distribution, restoration of ground cover in the catchment, improvements in soil management practices, reduction in the use of agrochemicals, and improvements in the handling and disposal of urban and industrial waste. However, to achieve sustained success in these areas of endeavor, an enabling environment must prevail and a clear link established between development policy and conservation of the environment. The quantum leap from acceptance of moral concepts such as "sustainable development" to the task of institutionalizing them and actively putting them into practice must be made. Ways to enforce and reinforce existing environmental policy and legislation must also be found. Environmental issues cannot be tackled in isolation of the prevailing economic and social problems. Poverty, for example, is known to cause and compound environmental problems. The issues of equity, security and political stability must also be addressed. Unless and until they are, sustainable development may not occur for many more years to come. ...read more.

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