The cleaning and desilting of tributaries in Taveta, Taita Taveta County have been finalised as part of the county government's efforts to save Lake Jipe.
The second phase project has taken more than two years to complete after the management of Deputy President William Ruto's farm in Mata declined to allow county government workers access to one of the canals, which partly lies within the property. More than 3.5 kilometres of the canal lies inside the DPs farm.
The Kisima farm management led by its manager Aries Dempers gave the consent in May this year, to pave the way for desilting of the canal inside its heavily protected 2,500-acre farm to commence.
Mata MCA Chanzu Kamadi said the contractor has already desilted the 20-kilometre tributary after the electric fence was opened by the farm to allow workers access into the farm.
Speaking to nation.africa on Saturday, Mr Chanzu said that the silt had accumulated over the years thereby preventing the smooth flow of water from the canals into the lake.
The trans-border lake with Kenya and Tanzania has lost its water in the last years due to natural and human factors that include siltation and over-extraction of water for agricultural activities.
The desilting of the canal will also resolve waterlogging issues in the Mata area.
The residents have been suffering for years because of the flooding after silt filled the canal.
"The lower side of the lake has already seen an increase in water levels. Our Tanzanian counterparts have reported that the water has increased on their side," he said.
The first phase of the exercise involved desilting of Bakari, Salimu, Mbuguni Sombasomba, lower and upper Muguru canals.
Mr Chanzu said the county government will set aside Sh7 million in the next budget to purchase two excavators for the third phase of the project.
"We will then lay a strategic plan where we will be required to conduct the desilting every three years. We must look for a permanent solution to this problem," he said.
The MCA noted that the exercise requires over Sh60 million to save and restore the ecological status of Lake Jipe to its former state.
"We must prioritise and finance the strategy for the lake to be saved. Both the county and national governments must come in to rescue this lake," he said.
Its decline has jeopardised the livelihoods of an estimated 1,000 people who live along its shores and still depend on it.
The fish catch has slumped; agriculture has become uncertain and several plants and animal species are losing their natural habitats and risk becoming extinct.
Endemic fish species like Jipe Tilapia has been listed as critically endangered.
Lake Jipe management unit chairperson Willy Mkudi said they no longer depend on fishing due to the dwindling fish stocks.
He said they make little income to enable them to feed their families like before.
"The lake was slowly becoming a pale shadow of its former self. It could slowly disappear steps are not taken quickly," he said.
County executive for Agriculture and Fishing Davis Mwangoma said both countries bordering and sharing the lake must ensure sustainable and equitable management and conservation of the natural resources of the water body.
He said the county government will not be able to address the matter alone and called for joint efforts in saving the lake.
"This is a trans-border lake and such efforts should be led by the national government. Scientists are warning that the effects of climate change are coming faster and are more serious so we need to move fast on this problem," he said.