Water and climate change stories have not always been accorded the attention they duly deserve in the local media in Kenya – not until recently anyway. The reason for this apparent apathy towards environmental stories in general, but water and climate change stories in particular, stemmed from the notion that they usually don’t garner much attention, compared to say, political or showbusiness articles.
At any rate, editors have always held the view that these stories don’t generate much by way of revenue, since they tend not to attract advertisers. Owing therefore to the obvious gap that existed, in as far as highlighting these stories in the local media, coupled with a passion I have for the environment, I found myself writing water and climate stories.
One of my career highlights came in 2019. I was awarded a reporting grant by the Water Journalists Africa, to report on the effects of environmental degradation on the Tana River Delta ecosystem.
The 1000km-long Tana River is Kenya’s longest, supporting a myriad of livelihood activities as well as developmental projects. It remains integral to the generation of hydroelectricity in the country.
However, the wanton destruction of the water catchment areas in the upstream source of the river, has severely affected the ecological integrity of a number of ecosystems dependent on the river, and through which it flows. But people’s livelihoods that depend on these ecosystems have been badly affected as a result.
This has exacerbated resource-based inter-ethnic conflict, between the sedentary, farming communities and the pastoral, nomadic people. But it has also heightened the human-wildlife conflict.
My investigation explored the interdependence of a healthy ecosystem, livelihoods and people’s and wildlife existence throughout the Delta. One of the biggest effects of the interference of the environment vis-à-vis the wellbeing of the Tana River Delta, was the reduction of the river outflow.
What this meant was that the river’s water pressure as it drained into the Indian Ocean had drastically reduced. Hence, during the hightide, the ocean faced little-to-no resistance from the river, meaning that the salty sea water pushed further up inland through the river channel, destroying crops and affecting freshwater marine life, such as fish.