Kenya's Mara River Plans Prompt Tanzania Response

Wildebeests jump to cross the Mara River during their migration to the greener pastures, between the Maasai Mara game reserve and the open plains of the Serengeti, southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi (file photo).

Arusha — Tanzania government will consult Kenyan authorities over major projects the latter plans to implement along the shared Mara River.

This follows reports that the neighbouring country would construct dams on the 400-kilometre river which originates from the Mau Forest which until recently had its share of crisis.

"We will consult them to see if such reports are true. And if so to find out if the planned projects fell within the framework of our bilateral cooperation," the Minister of State in the Vice President's Office (Union and Environment), Mr January Makamba, said here on Tuesday September 04.

He said so far there was no dispute between Tanzania and Kenya - which are partner states within the East African Community (EAC) - over utilisation and abstraction of water and other resources from the river.

"Mara River is just one of the shared trans-boundary resources between our two countries, others being lakes Chala, Jipe, Natron and Victoria," he told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of environment stakeholders.

Mr Makamba added that besides being bound by the EAC protocols, there were bilateral protocols between Tanzania and Kenya on sustainable utilisation and conservation of Mara River and other trans-boundary resources.

Last week the minister visited Mara Region and the Serengeti National Park. He had chance to talk to inhabitants living along its narrow basin when he was informed of plans to build dams upstream by Kenya.

Similar reports in the past have raised fears it would impact the flow of water in the river which cuts through the Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and hamper tourism.

An official in the minister's entourage confirmed to The Citizen here yesterday that Mr Makamba promised to reach out to the Kenyans on the issue "in an appropriate time".

Mara River empties into Lake Victoria, a shared lake whose conservation, utilisation and exploitation for economic resources is administered through a host of EAC protocols.

The river, with a drainage area covering 13,504 square kilometres, is also considered the lifeline of millions of wild animals in the Serengeti ecosystem and the multi-million tourism industry in both countries.

It lies across the path of the world famous wildebeest migration. Approximately 35 per cent of its drainage basin is in Tanzania and 65 per cent in Kenya. In the latter, it is fed by a number of small rivers and tributaries.

Until recently, the EAC through the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), has been organising an annual Mara River Week aimed to sensitise the coummunities on need for enhanced conservation in both states.

During a heated debate following an eviction of 'illegal' squatters in the Mau Forest in Kenya where River Mara has its source, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment Keriako Tobiko said the river alongside Lake Victoria was a shared resource.

"Interfering with the source of such crucial rivers would impact on Kenya's obligations on regional and international treaties and conventions," he said.

He added that Kenya took seriously its regional and international obligations under the international law.

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