May 11, 2011 An innovative program to save Kenya's Lake Naivasha is under way, with the goal of more sustainable use of the lake's water and restoration of its ecology.
World-renowned ecologist and conservationist Dr David Harper, from the University of Leicester Department of Biology and his PhD student Ed Morrison, recently showcased their latest work to the Prime Minister of Kenya.
The researchers have just returned from a successful field research visit to Kenya's Rift Valley. There, at Lake Naivasha, where Dr Harper has been researching for nearly 30 years, they were central to the launch of "Imarisha Naivasha" by the Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.
Ed Morrison demonstrated briquette-making to the Kenyan Prime Minister in a practical fair of processes which help to save water and carbon. This charcoal-saving process, which Morrison is championing around Naivasha, makes fuel from waste paper, cardboard or plant material and, in a country where charcoal is the major source of energy, helps in a small way to save forests.
"Imarisha Naivasha" -- meaning "Empower Naivasha" -- is an initiative, backed by the Prince of Wales' Sustainability Trust, to try to coordinate local industries and communities with government agencies and international NGOs, to restore this damaged lake. Imarisha has come to fruition six years after David Harper first started raising the alarm about the lake's deteriorating ecology, based upon tell-tale signs that others had missed.
Dr Harper said: "It is very easy to come to Lake Naivasha as a visitor or journalist, see all the greenhouses around the lake and immediately just blame flower growing," he said. "Local newspaper articles have blamed anything that goes wrong on pesticides from flowers, even though all the evidence shows flower growing to be a very well-controlled industry without risk. Articles have even talked about paint being thrown into the lake, because the water colour has changed. These are natural processes, but ones that have run riot because the lake is over-fertilised by people.
"The real cause of the lake's deterioration" says Harper, "is the same basic cause as everywhere else in the world -- too many people, also using up too much water and wasting most of it because they think it is free." The lake is 2 metres lower than it should be naturally because of water taken out -- but it is to run the taps of the cities, to power the greenest source of energy, a geothermal power station nearby and thousands of small-scale farmers in the catchment -- as well as to grow flowers. Flower growing is critically important to Kenya, it is the biggest earner of foreign exchange -- now above tourism and above coffee and tea. Over half of all roses sold in UK supermarkets come from Naivasha.
"The flower industry is conscientious about the water taken out, most particularly the growers who sell to European supermarkets, because they know that consumer groups can keep a check on the water they use as well as the conditions of their workers.
"Imarisha Naivasha" is the start of a better future for the lake. We are all really optimistic that it will encourage everybody to pull together, reduce their water use and give the lake a chance."
Harper added: "Two European supermarkets, REWE from Germany and Coop from Switzerland are leading the world, funding plans for ecological restoration of lake and wetlands, based upon my advice and that of my colleagues. I was also the major advisor to the Prince of Wales' Sustainability Unit from Clarence House, when they paid a fact-finding visit in September last year. I am very happy to see the fruits of my research now being used to guide the sustainable future of the lake.
"UK supermarkets should realise though, that they are being left behind by the Europeans. The Swiss and the Germans can see that, to make their supply chain sustainable, they need to put some profits back into ecological restoration. British supermarkets need to do more or they could lose the market in a few years time."
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