Wetlands have been described both as “the kidneys of the landscape,” because of the functions they can perform in the hydrological and chemical cycles, and as the“biological supermarkets” because of the extensive food webs and rich biodiversity they support.
The Ondiri swamp is located in Kikuyu town – Kiambu county. However, the wetland has been facing threats of water over-extraction and degradation. There has been increased demand for its use as a source of water, deterring the wetland’s potential to fulfill other important functions.
David Wakogy, the founder of Friends of Ondiri shed more light on the state of the wetland.
What vital role does the wetland play?
Ondiri is the second largest swamp in Africa. It is the source of Nairobi and Athi River. It acts as a water reservoir providing water to the residents of Kikuyu town and other parts of Kiambu county. It is also a breeding place for birds hence acting as a tourist attraction site. Ondiri is also a national hub since it is surrounded by two major schools: Alliance Boys and Girls High Schools.
Highlight some of the threats facing Ondiri swamp?
The swamp is mostly affected by human activities such as;
- fodder harvesting
- illegal water abstraction
- waste disposal in the swamp
- Presence of exotic tree species such as the eucalyptus which absorbs a lot of water.
It has also been affected by lack of policies governing the swamp.
What measures have been taken to reclaim the wetland?
There has been public awareness to educate and inform the public and the community living around the swamp the vital roles played by the swamp. Tree planting expeditions have already kicked in especially the bamboo as they have an ability to absorb a lot of water and act as a carbon sink. There has also been planting of the vetiva grass which is a special grass that absorbs metals.
Who are the key stakeholders directly involved in the reclamation of the swamp?
The stakeholders involved are friends of Ondiri, mazingira yetu magazine, eco-pro initiative in liaise with the city council of Nairobi county and KEFRI.
What other measures can be taken to sustainably conserve Ondiri?
Laying down the laws and policies regarding the wetland in the Kenya gazette for there to be practicable laws would protect the wetland from the threats its currently faxes. Fencing would also help put off people who misuse the resource. Construction of a swinging bridge to help people go across the swamp. Eco tourism activities should be promoted and the community involved.
More information ought to be shared on the importance of wetlands for everyone to get on board on achieving their sustainability.