Tanzania: Climate Change, Human Activities Threaten Mara River

WATER level in Mara River has diminished considerably in some parts of the river on the Tanzanian side, with local environmental experts citing climate change and human activities as the major causes.

"The water level dropped in recent weeks and people could cross the river just by foot. One can easily view sand instead of water," World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Project Officer at Musoma office Kanuni Kanuni told the 'Daily News' here yesterday.

"Climate change is one of the causes but another problem is human encroachment," added Mr Kanuni who is an environmental expert familiar with Mara River basin related issues.

He said deforestation, livestock keeping and farming are some of the human activities that threaten the survival of the Transboundary River which is shared by Tanzania and Kenya. Recently, Kenyan media reported that the river is drying up, blaming sand harvest, deforestation and encroachment on Mau forest among other issues. But, Mr Kanuni said sand harvesting is not the threat to the river on the Tanzanian side.

"In Tanzania, sand harvesting is not the threat on the river, the problem is farming, livestock keeping and indiscriminate cutting of trees," he said. According to the Kenyan media, the decline of water level on Mara River is threatening wildlife population in the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem.

Mara River is the crossing point of the annual migration of wildebeest. The river runs through Masai-Mara Game Reserves in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before flowing into Lake Victoria on the Tanzanian side. Conservationists in Tanzania describe Mara River as a life line of the annual great wildebeest migration. Besides its contribution on conservation of the Serengeti ecosystem, the river also supports livelihood of over 1.1 million people in Tanzania and Kenya.

The river basin covers about 13,750 square kilometres. Local and international partners are implementing several projects that seek to promote sustainable conservation of the river in-collaboration with the governments of the two East African countries.

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