By Gift Briton

Through her first National Wetlands Restoration Strategy, the Kenyan Government is pushing for the restoration and conservation of all wetlands in the country with Lake Ol Bolossat listed among the priority wetlands for restoration.

Located in Nyandarua County,195 kilometres North of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Lake Ol’ Bolossat is an internationally important wetland and biodiversity area. The lake supports important lifestyle activities for communities and is home to over 300 bird and 200 plant species. Most wetlands, including Lake Ol Bolossat, are important ecosystems as they provide water, moderate climate by acting as a carbon sink, support certain food chains and habitats for wildlife, and plays a critical role in tourism.

However, over the years, Lake Ol Bolossat has faced tremendous threat from the over-abstraction of water from its inlets. Numerous people draw water from the springs that feed the lake, largely attributed to the increasing population and intensive irrigation agriculture along the springs. Other factors such as sedimentation due to agricultural practices upstream, invasive species, illegal poaching, encroachment and climate change have contributed to the lake’s fluctuation.

At the moment, the lake seems to be recovering and taking back its space, thanks to the seasonal heavy rains that increased its water levels. However, ecologists warn that the fluctuation and gradual shallowing of the lake risks livelihoods and biodiversity within its ecosystem.

Thus, the Government of Kenya through the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the County Government of Nyandarua in collaboration with other partners such as the East African Wildlife Society, the University of Nairobi, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations among others, are uniting to conserve and restore lake Ol Bolossat’s dwindling beauty.

“We are doing afforestation upstream to hold the soil. Several organisations are working with farmers on water and soil conservation practices so that farming activities do not let the soil into the lake. There are also conservation activities for common water intakes as opposed to everybody drawing water anywhere to control how much water is being abstracted, leaving a percentage to flow into the lake,” Caroline Muriuki-Principal Wetland Officer at NEMA noted during a recent Science Cafe convened by Media for Environment, Science and Health and Agriculture (MESHA) and East African Wildlife Society in Nairobi.

With Lake Ol Bolossat proposed for accreditation as the seventh Ramsar site in Kenya, deliberate conservation efforts and livelihood activities around the lake have intensified. The communities around the lake are being supported through various conservation programs, including building ecotourism. Organisations such as the East African Wildlife Society are leading the efforts to collect biodiversity information within the lake’s ecosystem with the County Government of Nyandarua pushing for the lake to be gazetted as a national reserve.

Ramsar site is a wetland of international importance. To be designated as a Ramsar site, a wetland, like Lake Ol Bolossat, should meet any of the nine criteria for accreditation under the Ramsar Convention. The wetland should, among other criteria, contain a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region; support vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities or supporting populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.

Muriuki says that Lake Ol Bolossat is expected to be designated as the seventh Ramsar site in Kenya at the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP15) that will take place in July 2025 in Zimbabwe.

“As a Ramsar site, it means that Lake Ol Bolossat will be of international and national importance and therefore will attract more support in terms of funding, eco-tourism and conservation activities around the lake. It will also go a long way in solving livelihood issues around the lake,” Muriuki added.

“This lake falls within the central tourism circuit. And therefore it has a great opportunity in tourism which has not been unlocked. There is great interest by various partners including the County Government of Nyandarua to allocate more resources and build tourism sites and hospitality facilities around the lake. Wetlands are found in counties and the only way we can manage these wetlands is through more involvement from the counties. I see an opportunity where counties can domesticate the national wetland restoration strategy to map key wetlands within their jurisdiction and devise strategies to protect and conserve them,” Jabes Okumu, Programs and Advocacy Manager at East African Wildlife Society said during the Science Cafe.