Monday, October 5, 2009

60 Minutes Special on the Mara River

As mentioned in our May Newsletter, a fella doing some advance work for 60 minutes met up with us in Nairobi to talk about the Mara River a few months ago. We provided him with copies of our research, contacts of influential individuals to talk with and discussed some of the issues facing the Mara River. He told us to expect contact from the 60 minutes team upon their arrival in Kenya since we are currently the only researchers working on the Mara River in the Masai Mara National Reserve.

They never contacted us. Not sure why. I'm guessing they didn't contact us since they really didn't get into the science of the problem with the river. This actually worked out well for us because at the time they were there, we were working hard on developing a new water, sanitation and hygiene project in Tanzania. Robin Reid did provide the broadcast with a sobering perspective.

The broadcast does mention the clearing of forests to create wheat fields and the broader deforestation of the Mau Forest...which are two of the issues contributing to the reduction in quality and quantity of water within the Mara River. I would ask that WE...stakeholders in that basin not completely focus our attention on those two problems. They are important...but what is more important are the problems we can address; our neighbors illegally abstracting water from the river, the tourist camp site in my village that is illegally dumping untreated waste into the river, the poor land use practices in the upper catchment by the small landholder next door, the Eucalyptus trees planted on the river bank by my neighbor and other neighborhood level issues that WE, neighbors in this basin, can address. We can all create an enabling environment for the protection of the river through our educational conservation activities within our own neighborhood. Catalyze the environment around you and let it naturally spread through the basin. A good way to do this...join your local Water Resource Users' Associations (WRUA) and take charge of the future of your water security.

The special has been broadcast and you can now view it online. Check it out when you get a chance and let us know what you think. I haven't seen it yet since our internet is too slow but I did read the transcript. Here is a brief snippet that I cued in on...

The Mara River rises in a place called the Mau Forest and it meanders about 250 miles or so down to Lake Victoria. The Maasai tell us that there is less water in the river now than at any time they can remember.

Asked what impact it would have if the Mara River went away, Reid said, "We're not absolutely sure. But in the dry season it's the only thing that flows. And so if that water went away then the wildebeest population would collapse."

"What do you mean by collapse?" Pelley asked.

"You know, I don't actually know if there would be very many left, actually. Not just the wildebeest, it would be many of the other species that require water," Reid explains.

According to Reid, hundreds of thousands of animals would be lost. "In fact, the estimates are, and you know, this is a guess, is that if the river were to dry up completely, okay, in the very first week after it dried up we'd lose about 400,000 animals that would die."

"And, you know, maybe that's an overestimate. But, even if it's in a month, that's a lot," she added.
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