As you approach Kerio Valley floor from Iten Town , you may notice the vanishing Lake Kamnarok. This is the low-lying oxbow lake that formed about millions of years ago following cutting-off of Kerio River meander banks during the heavy floods.
The name Kamnarok earned its title from the word “Norok”, which is a species of water plant that was predominant in the lake in the early stages of the lake formation. The lake which some time years back occupied about 1 km square area in size is now on the verge of extinction. Its existence is being threatened, mainly because of farming activities and charcoal burning in the area.
I vividly remember in early 90’s when I was just a little boy, my mother and I visited Tambach Health Center for Polio vaccination which we had missed in our nearest health center. As we walked down escarpment, I took pleasure in the spectacular view of the lake right from the western Elgeiyo Escarpment. You could easily spot the bounds of the lake just at glance then.
When I was studying at Tambach High School between 2005 and 2008, during opening days or closing days, I used to walk home/school by foot uphill or downhill. At the top of Elgeiyo Escarpment cliff I could rest on a firm rock as I try to focus my eyes on location on Lake Kamnarok . It had greatly changed in size from the way I saw in 90’s, diminished and lost its bright turquoise color from algae and bacteria living in the water.
Today, you may need binoculars with strong magnification to have a view of the vanishing Lake Kamnarok from where I could view with my naked ayes when I was just 7 year-old boy.
Causes of Lake Kamnarok Deterioration
A number of human activities have been suggested to have interfered with the local ecological balance which has caused soil erosion forming deep gulleys, and has seen the tributaries drying up leading to deaths of numerous crocodiles.
Human activities that have contributed directly to degradation of Lake Kamnarok include the following;
The communities living in the surround of the lake drive their livestock right in to Lake Kamnarok to drink water. And since the lake is a home for numerous crocodiles, they do have to throw some stones in to the water first to scare them away lest they prey on their goats or cattle. This ends up claiming lives of crocodiles, putting pressure on the ecosystem balance. Worse still, parades of elephants usually flock at the lake around afternoon hours to quench their day- long thirst.
Lake Kamnarok is surrounded by vast indigenous forest of acacia trees. Acacia tree’s have sturdy branches and durable trunk which is an ideal characteristic for charcoal burning as this gives excellent energy capacity and retaining for heating in Jikos. Unauthorized charcoal burning is a booming business in the heart of Kerio Valley with its main market in Eldoret town hotels and butcheries. This trend is a severe threat to existence of water catchment areas as it endorses climate change.
I hope the concerted efforts of various conservation stakeholders will yield admirable fruits and restore the Glory of Lake Kamnarok.