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Drying River Emining causing conflict in Baringo



Drying River Emining causing conflict in Baringo

At the silent Kabimoi trading centre in Eldama Ravine, tension can be felt from every corner within the area with most residents appearing to stand on guard.

The arrival of any unfamiliar face to the area especially around the Naisura section of the river Emining  is treated with much suspicion.

Distinct groups of young and old men could be spotted converging at various points.

This has been the norm for close to a month now, after they were ambushed by a group of youths armed with bows and arrows, who had come from the neighbouring Mogotio sub county protesting what they said was blocking and diversion of river waters from their access.

The angry community members from the Emining area had followed the river channel to the Kabimoi area hoping to find the person responsible for the drying up of the river downstream.

Along the way, the group ended up destroying anything that they felt was blocking the river or siphoning water. This includes water pumps, pipes and other intakes along the river.

The incident has brought about counter accusations between area politicians over the matter.

Eldama Ravine MP Musa Sirma and his Mogotio counterpart Reuben Kiborek have found themselves trading blame and defending allegations relating to inciting youths to violence and funding irrigation activities along the river.

Daniel Kipng’ok an elder at Kabimoi revealed to us that the status quo has existed for two weeks now since the incident which threatened to disrupt the peace that the communities have enjoyed for years.

He explained that the residents of Eldama ravine, especially those who depend on the river, were angered by the incident which had caught the attention of the administration and other local leaders.

“After the incident our members had to think of how to protect themselves should the attack re-occur. We have been getting information that people were mobilising themselves to come here again.

Mr Kipng’ok said they were being falsely accused of diverting the river waters noting that it is the river waters that had reduced in volume.

Meanwhile at the Emining Trading Centre in Mogotio sub county anger and frustration is painted all over residents faces. The Emining river has been their main source of clean water for a very long time but has now dried up.

Just like at Kabimoi, groups of people are visible in different spots. The discussion here is all about the river.

But now it has been two weeks since it stopped flowing.

Ms Beatrice Kogo, who operates a fast food joint, lamented the frustrations she has been facing for the last few weeks after the river dried up.

The residents are forced to buy water from the borehole several kilometers away at Sh 20 per20 litres jerry can.

 “It is very expensive to buy water every day since I use at least 300 litres in a day. it is also salty compared to the water from the river,” said Ms Kogo.

Vincent Bor, a bodaboda rider at the centre, believes someone in Eldama Ravine is responsible for the drying up of the river. He and his colleagues are contemplating on holding a protest march along the river.

But this is likely to result in instant violence considering the situation in Kabimoi.

“Last time when we went there and cleared the river we had water flowing for two days before it was then blocked. I think the only way to get water flowing in the river is to go back there and confront those blocking it,” said Mr Bor.

Carol Cherono who lives at Gimose far downstream has not seen water for the last 25 days.

The mother of three says her vegetables in the farm have withered and animals dehydrated.

She is apprehensive of losing her livelihood should the situation remain the same.

“The river channel has remained dry for more than 20 days and I see no hope of the water coming back.I am forced to buy water from the borehole at Gimose for my family and animals,” siad Ms Cherono.

Narusura river which flows from its catchment areas in Lembus and Kiplombe forest in Koibatek subcounty has had its waters reduced in volume over the past few years which has climaxed into drying up downstream especially in Mogotio where it is known as Eminning river.

From the source it flows through various villages and locations including the Kabimoi where the water’s volume is relatively high but declines as it flows downstream before it joins the Pekerra River which drains into lake Baringo at Radaat location.

The rivers however dry up completely at Rusoga area near emining at the border of Mogotio and Koibatek leaving the communities downstream without water.

At the Emining footbridge small portions of water have collected in pools along the river course. This is what the residents have been drinking but it has now turned bitter for them.

Emining location chief Rutto Jepkemoi said the local administration has been holding numerous meetings with the communities in bid to find the solution to the problem and avert possible conflict over the resource.

Some of the issues deliberated in the meeting is how to stop the irrigation along the river course in the upstream and reduce water intakes to the farms.

Ms Jepkemoi said the administration in collaboration with Water Resource Management Authority have been trying to discourage pumping of the river waters to the farms by arresting some but have been unable to fully stop it.

The administrator explained that the majority of the residents have in the recent past been turning to agriculture by using the river waters to irrigate their tomato farms.

“Residents in places where the river has dried are very bitter and we have done countless meetings in an attempt to quell the anger that is growing among the residents,” said Ms Jepkemoi.

In one of the meetings Mogotio MP promised to sponsor water boozers to provide water to the residents

Baringo County executive member for Water Richard Tamar explained that the drying up of the river has been brought about by climate change.

Tamar said the change in the climatic conditions has seen the streams from the water towers which feed the river reduce significantly due to forest destruction in the Kiplombe and the Lembus.

The CEC further indicated that the cultivation along the river banks has exposed the river waters to evaporation.

“This combined with irrigation activities have resulted in the river losing much of its waters and eventually drying downstream,” he said.

Dr Tamar said the county government is working with the ministry to ensure the residents are supplied with water from the Chemususu dam as they plan on digging check dams along the river.

“We are also conducting regular meetings with the people to inform them of the phenomenon as we appeal to them to stop irrigation activities along the river.

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