Mary Mwendwa
September 06, 2013

From a distance a pink carpet of lesser flamingos and the still; quiet; smooth and serene ambiance of water welcome me to Lake Bogoria, at the beginning of Kenya’s great Northern Wilderness.

Millions of flamingos beautifully parade at the lake; some flying and other feeding on their delicacy and the abundant blue green algae.

The flamingos, which are the main attraction for tourists at Lake Bogoria
The flamingos, which are the main attraction for tourists at Lake Bogoria

A brown dog with raised ears is the only creature that seems to be available at Jonathan Tireitos homestead. His blue square iron-thatched house, sits on the shores of Lake Bogoria- deserted and closed. Water has surrounded the house and there is no indication of people living in it.

Formerly known as Lake Hannington, the lake sits on the floor of the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley at an altitude ranging from 316ft to 5000ft above sea level. The lake covers an area of 34 km2. It is an alkaline –soda lake with no outlet. It only supports microscopic algae with no fish.

Lake Bogoria is Kenya’s 3rd Ramsar site after Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha. Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Known to many as the jewel of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria has been experiencing increased water levels in the recent past.

Local people who have live around the lake say the water levels started increasing in 2011 and have been increasing drastically since then. Experts in indigenous knowledge there say the lake increases to such levels after every 50 years.

Satellite image for Lake Bogoria
Satellite image for Lake Bogoria

Jonathan narrates to me how his worst fears of water invading his compound were confirmed two months ago. “We got an early warning from the Red Cross guys, but we ignored, one night we were asleep with my family, we realized our house was already submerged in the water

This lake has shocked us, we have never experienced such high water level, people have been displaced and we have been warned by Red Cross disaster prepared team to advice people living around the lake to move to higher grounds,” says William Kimosop, the chief warden Lake Bogoria National Reserve.

’’Sometimes nature shocks us, may be it could be as a result of the heavy rains being experienced,” he added.

He notes that several families have been displaced and are now living uphill for their safety.

“This is the first time we have seen lake Bogoria displace people,” he muses.

Raphael Kimosop, a research scientist at Lake Bogoria National Reserve, says there are two hypotheses behind the increasing water levels of Lake Bogora: “the unpredicted rainfall patters which have been experienced overtime following conservation initiatives and the saturation of the water aquifers in the bed of the lake.”

This increase in water levels created a shallow shoreline for the flamingos and other birds. Flamingos now have enough time and ground for practicing nesting. The is also emergence of new biodiversity, more species especially for the crocodiles and other water birds like the African skimmer.

However, other effects on the environment have been reported, according to Raphael, “due to the increase in water levels, the initially terrestrial places are changing to be aquatic habitats; therefore terrestrial plants have been submerged in water. Some of the plant species that are being submerged are acacia trees,”

He also laments the change in PH of the lake’s water noting that this is harmful to blue green algae- the food of lesser flamingos.

Lake Naivasha, Elementaita and Nakuru are experiencing increased water levels too.

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