Government Committed To Conserve Wetlands, Says NEMA Official

As the world marks International Wetlands Day on February 2, the government, through different agencies, is employing various measures to conserve the areas, which are among major sources of water. According to environmental officials, a large number of wetlands in the country have been destroyed by human activities like farming. Through the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) among other partners like the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and Water Resources Authority, the government is committed to restoring and conserving wetlands. In an interview with KNA, Murang'a County NEMA Director Sarah Waruo said that some people have encroached on wetlands thus disrupting water sources, especially for rivers. 'Several wetlands especially here in Murang'a County have been affected by encroachment as farmers have opted to do cultivation in the areas,' said Waruo adding that encroachment by farming activities has interfered with the conservation and the ecosystems of these areas. According to Waruo, one o f the local wetlands, Wairuri, in Maragua Sub County currently sits on about 13 acres of land, down from its allegedly original 27 acres. This is largely due to encroachment by human activities. 'We have so far lost around 14 acres of land as a result of human encroachment,' she said, adding that the wetland is also threatened by eucalyptus trees planted on the encroached areas. She noted that Wairuri wetland acts as a source of water for Kiamereka Spring, which in turn feeds to Karongo Stream and Iithe Rui River which are tributaries of the Sabasaba River. The government has moved in and NEMA has targeted a roll-up of restoration of wetlands in the county starting with Wairuri wetlands, she added 'Starting from last year, NEMA has been spearheading a programme where they are restoring the wetlands and the ecosystems of these important areas,' she said. The director added NEMA in conjunction with the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC) and Kenya Forest Service chose the wetland for the lau nch of the wetlands restoration initiative dubbed 'Adopt a Wetland initiative' in the county. 'The objective of adopting a wetland initiative is to enhance wetlands restoration and conservation through the establishment of lead champions for wetlands conservation,' she explained. Murang'a has several wetlands including Kangure in Gaturi area, Kiamereka along Kenol highway, Manguo in Makuyu, Kimathi, and Ndakaini dam among others. The county also has several rivers and springs including Thika, Mathioya, Saba Saba, Maragua, and Irati among others. 'We have streams that are emanating from these rivers and we are trying to conserve these wetlands so that we get to enjoy the benefits,' she averred. Waruo further noted that Kangure wetland rehabilitation and conservation exercise has already been done where the area has been fenced and trees planted. 'Conservation and monitoring is ongoing by NEMA to ensure that the wetland is well protected,' she said. Elsewhere, Kiamereka wetland has been rehabilitated as it was threatened by residents who were cutting down trees in the area to pave the way for farming activities. She said according to this year's theme of the day 'Wetlands and human wellbeing' NEMA is trying to tie the importance of wetlands to the wellbeing of human beings. 'Once we know the importance of the wetlands, then we realize that we need to conserve them. This is done to raise awareness to the public on the importance of wetlands to promote their conservation and wise use,' the Director noted. Source: Kenya News Agency