30% of Lake Magadi has been filled up by silt and sand resulting from human activity upstream.
According to the National Environment and Complaints Committee (NCEC), an estimated 8,000 tonnes of silt finds it way into the lake on each rainy day, with 20 square kilometres (approximately 5,000 acres) of the Lake currently filled up.
“The upper catchment areas are 2,000 metres above sea level making the lake vulnerable to siltation due to soil deposits carried by River Kisamis downwards,” NCEC Secretary John Chumo told the media.
The amount of soil that has been swept into the lake from the highlands in Suswa and Nairegei Enkare in Narok county piled up several metres high forcing the area residents to relocate.
A resident walks on the dry part of Lake Magadi.
According to the NCEC fact-finding mission, the ecological crisis experienced at Kenya’s only supply of soda ash has been linked to infrastructural projects upriver.
The Mai Mahiu-Narok road was highlighted as one of the projects that have contributed to the large scale siltation. Experts have given the lake a 5-year shelf life before it disappears completely.
“The construction of the Mai Mahiu-Narok road, caused all the water that used to settle around Duka Moja area to be channelled through closed box culverts, as drainage for the road. This caused serious erosion and deep gullies,
“Also, the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has become the biggest contributor to the siltation,” a community development manager working in the area told the media.
Lake Magadi is the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, lying in a catchment of faulted volcanic rocks, north of Tanzania’s Lake Natron.
According to findings carried out by researchers in the area, the two salty lakes were once united as a single larger lake.
A single species of fish, a Cichild Alcolapia Graham, inhabits the hot, highly alkaline waters of this lake basin and is commonly seen in some of the hot spring pools around the shoreline, where the water temperature is less than 45 °C.
The lake is to many people a source of income with dozens of entrepreneurs starting soda ash related businesses.
To others, Lake Magadi is a tourist attraction mainly because of its great location, its salty nature and the flamingos that nest there. It contributes Ksh5 billion annually in foreign exchange.
Locals have urged the national government to engage the ministries of Environment, Lands, Water and Roads, the Kenya Water Towers Agency and the private sector in saving the lake.
Lake Magadi in Kenya.