Saving the Mara River is saving the Serengeti itself.
The river is a slender thread that holds the entire ecosystem together. Without it, the migration will collapse. And it would be a matter of weeks or months, not years!
Photos: Wildebeest approach the river for a crossing.
Enyapuiyapui Swamp in the Kenya highlands, source of the Mara River.
The Mara River is supplied by water from the Mau Forest in the highlands of central Kenya. But the forest is steadily being eroded through deforestation, agriculture, and dams. This has already reduced the flow of the river as it makes its way to the Masai Mara Reserve.
Then last year experts sounded another alarm, a series of dams downstream from the Mau Forest they say would dry up the Mara River during a draught and "kill the Serengeti."
We can see what’s happening right now in Cape Town, South Africa, which may well be the first major city in the world to run out of water. The reasons – severe draught, population increase, and a change in overall weather patterns due to climate change. These same factors are operating on the Mara River Basin. Kenya’s population growth is high. The current population of about 50 million is expected to 95 million by 2050 and 140 million by the end of the century.
For more on the Mara River Basin, see this article by No Water No Life. Learn more on proposed dams here.
What we’re doing
Last year we alerted the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) in Kenya and No Water No Life in the US, and we’re partnering with them to monitor developments and do advocacy work in Kenya. This month (February 2018) EAWLS is convening a meeting of experts and stakeholders in Nairobi. The solution to the problem lies in cooperation between Kenya and Tanzania, which share this ecosystem. As with the Serengeti highway, it ultimately falls under the protocols and legal apparatus of the East African Community.
In the meantime we will monitor this closely and work with our partners to find a lasting solution. The big question is: Given a finite water supply, huge population growth, and climate change, can there actually be a long-term, win-win solution that gives water to people but keeps the Mara River running for wildlife? What might that be? And who decides?
Photos copyright: Alison Jones, for No Water No Life