25 Mar 2017 Story Ecosystems

UN Environment on the frontline against pollution in Africa

25 March, 2017 - A major clean-up exercise took place today at Lake Naivasha in Kenya as part of activities to mark World Water Day.

UN Environment, in conjunction with a non-governmental organization, Clean Up Kenya, supported local action on Lake Naivasha to draw attention to the threats facing freshwater bodies all across the world.

This year’s World Water Day , observed on March 22 under the theme of "Wastewater" particularly resonated with the state of Lake Naivasha, which is facing a host of environmental threats. Together with other partners, the UN Environment is championing an end to all forms of pollution.

Lake Naivasha, a RAMSAR site (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance), provides livelihoods, food and water to thousands of residents. However, the lake’s biodiversity is critically threatened by human factors, including: pollution (from plastics, discarded fishing gear, pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers), sewage effluent, livestock feeding lots and water extraction.

Kenya has joined the list of countries that have placed a ban on the use of plastic bags. Effective September 2017, the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging will be banned.

Use of and poor waste management of non-biodegradable plastic bags is a major concern across the country and is evidenced by the havoc wreaked on the environment including in freshwater and ocean systems. The ban is a welcome step towards promoting healthy fresh water systems such as Lake Naivasha.

UN Environment welcomed the commitment of the government of Kenya towards environmental stewardship noting that plastic bags kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food. Plastics also damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever. Through the Clean Seas Initiative, UN Environment has declared ‘war on plastics’ and is calling on governments, businesses and individuals to join the campaign and take action to address pollution from plastics.

Other stressors to Lake Naivasha’s biodiversity are chemical runoff from pesticides used for pest control on horticultural farms operating nearby. This has impacted the lake negatively causing potential harm including to fish, migratory birds, wildlife and domestic animals. It may also contribute to the proliferation of invasive species such as water hyacinth.

Over 150 participants from UN Environment and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) dedicated their time at Lake Naivasha and focused clean-up efforts on the Karagita public beach. In addition, 1,500 participants from schools, flower farms and other local organizations participated in five other cleanup sites around the lake.

As Mr. Mohamed Atani, UN Environment Information Officer Africa Office noted, ‘’With increasing economic activity in the environs centered around the lake, it is imperative to scale-up the efforts to improve conditions on the lake and ensure sustainability. This lake provides water that serves the needs of both families and the industry in Naivasha’’.  

Some participants were accompanied by friends and family members – a great effort especially from the younger ones. It was a fun event and the little ones understood that Lake Naivasha is not just about hotels and flower industries! With about 600 school children from the local community participating, the hands-on approach consolidated gains in environmental education through creating awareness and instilling responsible citizenship among the youth. Youth from the Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change, Young Men’s hristian Assocation and Kenyatta University Environmental Club were also in attendance. The clean-up generated waste which was taken for incineration to the Karagita Community Cooker in Naivasha. The Karagita Community Cooker is a plastics incinerator that burns 78-80kg of plastic waste daily and produces about 5-7kgs of ash residue in an average day. The project aims to solve two challenges in low income communities: addressing waste management and providing employment, particularly to the youth and women.

For more information, please contact: Mohamed Atani, Regional Information Officer at: mohamed.atani [a]unep.org – Tel. +254 727531253.