Kenya: Thousands of Fish Killed in River Tana's Environmental Disaster

Fishermen at the Kipini Beach front in Tana River County in this photo taken on May 19, 2017. Thousands of fish have died after locals in Tana River blocked salty water intrusion from the six kilometer Matomba brook into the River Tana.
24 September 2020

More than 1,000 fish of different varieties have died in one of the biggest environmental catastrophies to hit the River Tana.

This follows efforts by locals in Tana River to block salty water intrusion from the six kilometer Matomba brook into the River Tana.

Nation witnessed the magnitude of the of the incident at Chara Village in Tana Delta where tonnes of fish have died along the river.

The River Tana is the life blood of much of Tana Delta's agriculture industry and supports thousands of communities in Garsen, Kilelengwani, Shirikisho and Chara.

Villagers resorted to blocking the brooks infiltrating the river with saline water, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

The locals claim government officials, despite visiting the area a year ago and having witnessed their plight, took no action, leaving them to seek their own solutions.

Left without an answer

"The Minister for Environment Keriako Tobiko was here, and saw how we were suffering. We can't farm along this river. He left us without an answer, so we did what we thought was best for us," said Ali Bakari, a local.

The residents of Chara resolved to heap bags of sand and soil at the point where the Matomba brook meets the river, resulting in the death of thousands of fish along the 6km saline water.

The dead fish have have attracted hundreds of Marabou Stork birds which are now scavenging on the remains.

The locals did not carry out the exercise on their own, but were provided with machinery by the county government to carry out the work.

Nature Kenya has protested the incident, terming it as an outrageous and thoughtless action.

Speaking to Nation, Nature Kenya's Project Manager in the Tana Delta George Odera said both arms of the government failed to advise the locals on how to approach the issue.

"We came to this same spot with the CS and we sought to have no damages," he said.

Marine life in danger

According to Mr Odera, a team of experts was to be deployed to research on the period when the fish swim to the brackish water and when the water gets too saline for them to swim in before closing the brook.

In his view, the brook was better blocked starting from the point of high salinity.

"It's really heartbreaking how the county government disregarded our advice and handled this matter mechanically," he said.

Reached for comment, Environment Chief Officer George Kase said locals made a choice, hence the move by the department to support them.

"The locals are the ones who made that choice, we only provided help but did not foresee the damage it would cause," he said.

There is an impending disaster if the authorities do not take action to save the marine life along the river.

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