RICE OR ENVIRONMENT – ANOTHER CONTROVERSY UNFOLDS
An investor in growing rice in Kenya has found themselves at cross roads – and crossing swords – with the environmental community, when it became known that the single inflow of water of the River Yala has been largely blocked and diverted to water the rice fields. This measure, illegal as it is to start with, has shown a prompt impact on the Yala Swamps and on Lake Kanyaboli, where the water levels have fallen and in particular sections of the Yala Swamps dried up.
Dominion Farms was exposed earlier this week as the main culprit and conservationists have appealed to the local administration and government at large to immediately intervene and stop the investor from interfering with the water flows and the environment.
Yala Swamp, though no national park but ‘only’ a national reserve, albeit also managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, may be an upcoming attraction in Western Kenya for tourist visitors wishing to ‘pay homage’ to the paternal village of US President Barack Obama, and while in this part of Kenya then also take time to see for instance the rare Sitatunga gazelle, which is found in the Yala Swamps.
The accusations have rocked the company management and one source claims they swiftly opened gates and blockages when the news broke to get away with their previous deeds, while the company blamed low water levels in the river for the problems downstream for the swamp and the lake, an explanation largely dismissed by a conservation source in Nairobi who said: ‘yes there is a drought again, but the problem for Yala and Lake Kanyaboli is made much worse by the rice grower diverting the little water there is. It is the diversion which is making the problem so bad, if the river could just be left alone these ecosystems could still survive’.
He also advised the company not to use boreholes to feed the rice fields as this too would lower the water table but seek to tap into the waters of Lake Victoria and pump from there.