Kenya and Tanzania are locked in a fight over a joint plan to build two dams on the Mara River, amid warnings that the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem faces would suffer adverse effects as a result of the human activity.
Kenya is in the process of constructing Norera dam which will be 10 metres high and Tanzania was set to construct Borenga dam which was set to stand 30 metres high once complete.
Tanzania has, however, since scrapped the plan in a bid to protect the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, which is the heartbeat of the multi-billion-dollar tourism sector in the region and wants Kenya to follow suit.
Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Constantine Kanyasu told parliament last week that the country is in consultation with Kenya to have the planned projects shelved.
“The dams will lead to an adverse impact on the Serengeti ecosystem, including the loss of some species due to lack of water in the Mara River during the dry season,” he said.
Kenya, however, has stuck to its guns and insists the construction of the dam will go on, accusing Tanzania of dishonesty, saying the dams are joint projects being implemented under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).
Kenya’s Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui told The EastAfrican that under the NBI’s investment programme—the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme—the two countries agreed to construct the Norera small multipurpose dam upstream on the Kenyan side and Borenga medium multipurpose dam downstream on the Tanzanian side.
“It’s unfortunate that there’s so much focus on hearsay by the Tanzanian leaders. It would be appropriate for them to use appropriate communication channels to get the facts from us,” he told The EastAfrican.
The dams were conceived as measures to address water and food insecurity for the communities within the basin on both sides of the border but a study by international scientists published in the journal Science, however, warned that increased human activity around Africa’s most iconic ecosystems is “squeezing the wildlife in its core,” damaging habitation and disrupting the migration routes of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles.
The 400km-long Mara River originates in the Mau Complex in Kenya’s Rift Valley and empties into Lake Victoria in Tanzania.
The river is the lifeline of millions of wild animals in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem and every year, more than a million wildebeest, half a million gazelle and 200,000 zebra make the perilous trek from the Serengeti Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya in their search for water and grazing land.