Africa: Mara River Crisis Should Make Us Think- Mohammed Hersi
It is now official Mara River has virtually dried up a scenario not witnessed in the last century.
Myriad of factors contribute to this state and key amongst them is the destruction of Mau Forest which is the source of most of the rivers going across the greater Mara. That is not the aim of my piece this Sunday morning. Finger pointing won’t help us. We are also quick to blame global warming but truth is that this is a self-inflicted disaster.
On other hand wrong tree types replaced the indigenous trees at the water towers and the main culprit is the notorious Euclaptus trees that sucks water from the ground like no other trees does. This factor is also fuelled by tea farms that are looking for easy quick cheap source of fuel to dry the tea leaves. Well the dry weather has now come to bite the same tea farms where 40,000 tea farms workers have been sent home.
Closer to my heart is tourism where we have marketed indeed over done it by selling Mara as a migration spectacle and indeed it is or was. Sadly we reduced Mara to a 3 months destination yet some of the best times to visit Mara is outside the migration period with less crowd and more cats and grazers. Simply put Mara is an all year round destination.
The news that Mara River is facing serious crisis is no longer news and I do not want to join the doom and gloom bandwagon. Yes it has dried , what next ?
Truth be said, most of our resources is God given and as Kenya we have put in almost no investment to sustain them. It is now time we did it and more so Narok county who draw resources from this great place. Kajiado, Nakuru , Taita Taveta are all yearning for an opportunity to manage Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Tsavo respectively.
Is it about time that we considered several small dams in the Mara and regulate the rain water from upstream, I think my answer is yes . We have become so much used to free flowing water that we have taken it for granted that it will never dry.
What will small dams across Mara do? Micro climate will be created while consistent flow of the river will be guaranteed throughout the year and even Serengeti downstream will be happy to see that the flow of the river is year all round .I may not be a scientist but i believe daming a river that is turning to be seasonal is the only solution in the short term. Once the animals have enough grass and then water to quench their thirst they will thrive. Water bodies world over is a birds paradise and today we are looking at loss of our birds due loss of our habitat. Evidence of habitat loss is when bird species start to vanish.
Long term we must go back to the root cause of the problem up at the water towers. Reforestation and at the same a goverment order that will ban notorious Eucalyptus (Muyua Mai, there is a reason why Late Wangari Mathai hated this tree that was imported from Australia ) . The same tree is also wrecking havoc in Central Kenya where rivers once flowed freely they are now all turning to be dry rocky river beds. At this rate even River Tana is no longer safe which is source of our hydro power.
Then finally to my fellow tourism players, it is about time we reboot our mindset how we sell and package Mara. It is about time we sold Mara holistically year all round and not reduce Mara to a migration phenomenon. Well now that the river is facing serious challenges may just maybe we may put on our thinking hats and sell Mara as Mara and not as a 3 months migration phenomenon.
Botswana , Namibia and even South Africa don’t have rivers flowing year all round but they attract tourists year all long. Botswana is one dry Okavango delta most of the year but they attract high end tourists so is Namibia a dessert . Why do I get the feeling that nature is now forcing us to reboot our brains. To Narok county , it is about time you invested back into this cash cow called Masai Mara and bit by bit you can set up the dams and trust me micro climate will be created and in the process Mara will rejuvenate as nice premium park.
Those saying Mara is now dead without the Mara River are pessimists. Mara is not dead, it will only be dead if we refuse to think beyond the free God given resources. Mara is 1/16 the size of the massive Serengeti . In Mara you can see the big four in under one hour and sometimes even the big five.
Folks the Cheese has moved, it’s time we woke up to smell the coffee.
As always I choose to remain an optimist.
BY Mohammed Hersi