Nairobi, Aug 4 – The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) on Tuesday urged the Kenya Forests Service (KFS) to initiate prosecution against individuals who have grabbed forest land in the Satima Escarpment in Nyandarua County, a key water catchment area.

EAWLS said that it had received information from a reliable source that some 3,125 acres of forest land in the Satima Escarpment, a water catchment area for several wetlands in the area – including Lake Ol Bolossat – had been encroached on. Initial reports suggested that the trespass affected about 100 acres.

“We welcome KFS’ decision to demolish the fences that had been erected around the 100-acre grabbed forest land. We also urge the Service to prosecute those responsible for the encroachment to discourage other grabbers of land in protected areas,” said Celline Achieng, Head of Programmes at EAWLS.

KFS on July 28 issued a two-week notice to all those who have intruded into the forest seeking to allocate public land to themselves to vacate and remove their fences, failure to which the palings will be demolished.

Satima Escarpment is an important catchment area for Lake Ol Bolossat, the only lake in central Kenya. The lake forms the headwaters for the Ewaso Nyiro River, which supports the livelihoods of communities, livestock and wildlife in the dry Laikipia and Samburu Counties.

Lake Ol Bolossat was gazetted as a Protected Wetland in 2018, a culmination of several years of advocacy by the East African Wild Life Society, which campaigned for the protection of the lake.

Despite its small size (43.3 km2), the lake is known for its rich biodiversity that includes hippos and over 100 waterbird species (both resident and migrant). It has been designated as the 61st Important Bird Area (IBA). It also falls within the central tourism circuit. Besides, the lake supplies Nyahururu town with water and supports the thriving wildlife tourism in Thomson’s Falls, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves.

As an unprotected wetland, Lake Ol Bolossat faced myriad challenges and threats, including deforestation of catchment areas, the abstraction of water from feeder rivers, overgrazing, pollution, land-use changes, soil erosion and siltation.

Those challenges continue to threaten the ecological integrity of the lake because its boundaries have not yet been delineated as called for in the gazettement notice. An official from Nyandarua County administration informed EAWLS recently that the county was making efforts to have the lake re-gazetted as a National Reserve to boost its status as a protected area.

Efforts are also underway to have the Lake Ol Bolossat Integrated Management Plan finalized, ratified and launched on September 27, the World Tourism Day. That process has been facilitated by EAWLS since 2018 with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

EAWLS also helped form the umbrella Lake Ol Bolossat Community Conservation Group (LOCCOG) with a mandate to coordinate the conservation work of the different community groups around the lake. Since its inception, LOCCOG has galvanized the local communities to undertake various conservation initiatives, including the rehabilitation of the Satima Escarpment, cleaning up the lakeshore and removing snares set up by wildlife poachers.