Nyandarua is opening up as the preferred tourist destination in Kenya, His Excellency Governor Francis Kimemia has said.
Speaking during this year’s National Wetlands Day celebrations at Lake Ol’Bollosat, the Governor said the County Government is seeking comprehensive rehabilitation, conservation and dredging of the water body.
Decisions around the lake are part of an extensive agenda to integrate Nyandarua’s tourism circuit to cover sports, agricultural and medical tourism, bird watching of rare species and the breeding and mourning caves for elephants in the Aberdare Ranges.
A legendary tourist attraction site with beautiful nature sceneries, ideal for birds and hippo watching, boating, water surfing and sport fishing, the lake faces possible extinction owing to overgrazing, siltation, human-wildlife conflict.
The Governor noted that the lake previously extended far beyond Kichakani, attracting a long stream of curious visitors.
“Now, it seems, the lake is shrinking into a small pond, owing to human encroachment and related activities. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Lake Ol’Bollosat is the only natural and inland lake in Central Region, nuzzled between the Western slopes of the Aberdare Ranges and Dundori Ridge.
It boasts of an abundant birdlife, with over 100 spices of rare migratory birds and was in 2007 recognized as the 61st most Important Bird Area in Kenya (IBA), which means it is a place of international significance for the conservation of birds at the global, regional and sub regional levels.
“It is also home to globally-threatened species, such as the sharpe’s long claw (Gathonjo ka Weruini ) and the grey crowned crane (Muhau). These birds may only be found at the lake and the Kinangop plateau, from where they sometimes visit the Mau and Molo grasslands,” said the Governor.
The birds come from as far as Asia and Europe, attracting bird lovers, students and researchers from around the globe.
With more than 400 giant hippos, mud fish and other plant and animal life, the wetland is one of the world’s most productive and biodiverse, affecting the ecosystem in Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Marsabit counties.
Today, Governor Kimemia said the County Government will incentivize investors to put up star-rated hotels by creating a land bank and leasing it to them.
Already, it is locating and identifying cultural resources, from the archaeological, paleontological, historical, cultural, to simply landmark.
The County head said his administration has begun improving road networks leading to the lake and installing signage, following meetings with stakeholders, including the surrounding community and the Settlement Fund Trustee (SFT).
Governor Kimemia’s agenda for the lake received an immediate boost, following a declaration from the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, Hon. (Prof.) Judy Wakhungu, that she gazetted the water body on January 24th, 2018.
“This now paves way for development projects, including a recreational park to boost local tourism and create employment for youth, fencing of the lake, introduction of other wild animals and conversion of the area into a game reserve to boost biodiversity,” she said to loud cheers from the over 2,000 people present.
National Land Commission chairperson Prof. Mohammed Swazuri announced that the gazettement renders all titles in the area surrounding the lake automatically null and void.
“We will, in a few weeks, re-establish boundaries to restore the lake’s catchment areas,” he said, to more cheers.
Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Hon. Najib Balala, who as chief guest was representing His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, directed the Kenya Tourism Board to market the lake as a niche market for bird watching.
“As the line minister, I expect the board to arrange for the required coverage in local and international media,” he said.
A joint technical team, with representation from both the National and County Government, will manage the lake’s transition into a national and global treasure.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Health Services, Hon. Sicily Kariuki, fought for the lake’s gazettement alongside Governor Kimemia. I won’t be surprised if President Uhuru nominates her to represent the National Government,” he said.
The County Government is liaising with the National Museums of Kenya to gazette and protect other archeological sites, including the colonial white mischief Happy Valley homes and Mau Mau caves.
However, Governor Kimemia warned that Nyandarua is a County in peril, owing to pollution and contamination of ground and surface water resources, diminishing forest cover and encroachment of riparian reserves.
“Lack of proper effluent and solid waste management is causing ecological degradation that should concern us all. We cannot talk about the future of Lake Ol’Bollosat without committing ourselves to environmental stewardship,” he said.
Under the proposed second County Integrated Development Plan (2018-2022), the County Government has committed itself to implementing an integrated waste water and solid management plan by constructing a sewerage treatment and recycling plants in all the major urban centers in Nyandarua.
It is also seeking to leverage on the uniqueness of the Lake Ol’Bollosat ecosystem by dredging it for water conservation, restoration of the ecosystem and mining of composite fertilizer as a by-product.
“We will need to keep engaging each other as friendly partners in reforestation, commercial agro-forestry and develop cottage industries for forest products. None of us is here by the invitation of the other. This environment belongs to all of us. It is the duty of each one of us to take care of it, and each other,” said the Governor.
The County Government has committed itself to support both large and small-scale private farmers in tree planting to increase our current forest cover from 20 per cent to 30 per cent; embracing clean development mechanisms for carbon credit schemes using forest cover as a Carbon sink; and to dig trenches to manage the hippo menace in Ndaragwa and Kipipiri sub-counties so as to reduce human wildlife conflicts.
It is also enforcing laws regarding encroachment of river banks, forests, wetlands and other riparian reserves and repossess all illegally acquired public resources; collaborating with lead agencies in enforcing conservation of protected areas in the County; and developing a policy on logging and range management to avoid exploitation of County forests and grasslands.
Leaders present included members of the County Executive Committee, County Commissioner Mr. Samuel Kimiti, members and leadership of the County Assembly, Ol’Jororok legislator Hon. Mike Muchira, his Ndaragwa counterpart Hon. Jeremiah Kioni, Senator Mwangi Githiomi, former Governor Hon. Daniel Waithaka, Tharaka Nithi Governor His Excellency Muthomi Njuki, and his Laikipia counterpart Hon. Nderitu Muriithi.