Kenya and Tanzania have signed an agreement that will monitor developments aimed at protecting and conserving of the environment in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The environment agreement means any of the two countries can question development that may threaten the availability of water in both parks. The Mara area in Kenya provides a livelihood to millions of people, animals and is a major foreign exchange earner for the two countries. The Serengeti area in Tanzania also provides similar benefits.
Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Park in Kenya could be said to be one and the same thing divided just by a national border. These two wildlife conservations are globally recognised for playing host to a wildebeest migration considered to be the biggest and largest annual wild animals stretch in the world and named as the World’s Eighth wonder.
The animals make a ‘circle trek’ of approximately 13,300 square kilometers in their annual circle migration. The Kenya-Tanzania border vicinity is home to more than 1.1 million people and the world-famous Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park.
For years, differing laws in Kenya and Tanzania were stumbling blocks in managing the shared ecosystem. However, there are other challenges facing the area which include deforestation by people settling in forest areas, conflicts with Wildlife due to large-scale farming and shortage of water caused by poor agricultural practices and extensive abstraction.
Other threats are increased soil erosion, water pollution due to discharge of effluence into Mara River, pollution from mining activities and increased frequency and intensity of floods. The threats will be addressed jointly following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the fourth Mara Day celebrations in Butiama, Tanzania.
The MoU said the two countries should share Environmental Impact Assessment results for any development projects within the basin which may impact on water. This MoU also seeks to address the introduction of any non-indigenous animals or plants into the area and spells out how such animals or plants would be controlled or eliminated.
Various tourism stakeholders welcomed the MOU as a commitment by the two Countries to conserve the Mara area. “The Kenya Government is committed to the ongoing regional initiatives that are aimed at addressing the challenges facing the basin,” says Kenya’s Water Minister Eugene Wamalwa. “I’m confident that implementation of the MoU will strengthen our collaboration with Tanzania in a sustainable management and utilization of our shared water resources.”
Tanzania’s Vice President Mr Mohammed Gharib Bilal was optimistic that his Government will implement the MoU fully. “ Our two Countries have signed an agreement and we are determined to implement it fully. We all want the basin to be sustainably managed for future generations,” he said.
Lake Victoria Basin Commission Executive Secretary Dr Canisius Kanangire termed the signing as a milestone. “To all the East Africans, this is a monumental achievement. It will provide a framework upon which agreed actions between the two partner States will be implemented,” he observed.
The Coordinator of Mara Serengeti ecosystem Mr Nicholas ole Murero, remarked: “From now, all the players including the Government, Non-Governmental Organisations and Conservancies will operate in a well coordinated system as one unit in conserving the Mara-Serengeti National Parks Ecosystem.”
The Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Water Towers Agency Mr Frank Nkako said the basin is a priceless resource which should be protected and asked the two Countries to respect the MoU. “We have worked with other Government agencies to recover about 60, 000 hectares of land in the Masai Mara Game Reserve as part of the efforts to preserve the basin,” said Mr. Nkako. Masai Mara and Serengeti, which are arguably the two most famous Parks in Africa, have of late seen numerous illegal developments that threaten the Ecosystem.
Two years ago the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that wildebeest populations were declining because their dispersal areas and migratory corridors were being lost due to high human population densities, increasing urbanization, expanding agriculture and fences. (By Lydia Ochieng)