Lake Turkana National Parks
The most saline of Africa's large lakes, Turkana is an outstanding laboratory for the study of plant and animal communities. The three National Parks serve as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and are major breeding grounds for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus and a variety of venomous snakes. The Koobi Fora deposits, rich in mammalian, molluscan and other fossil remains, have contributed more to the understanding of paleo-environments than any other site on the continent.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
Complex of geological features
Diversity of aquatic and lakeshore habitats in a semi-desert environment
Diversity and abundance of birds
Rare and endangered fauna
Fisheries and wildlife including endemic species of fish
The Omo River (which runs through Ethiopia) accounts for 90% of the lake’s inflow, and is being transformed through the progressive construction of a cascade of five hyropower projects, named Gibe I to V, the third project being Gibe III dam whose reservoir was filled during 2015 and 2016, with the project being officially inaugurated in December 2016. Meanwhile, work has commenced on the Gibe IV hydropower dam project (KENWEB, 2017).
As had been predicted, the lake level has fallen over two metres during the filling of the Gibe III dam reservoir from 2015 to end 2016. Whilst this fall in lake level can be claimed to be within the lake's natural fluctuation range, it has been demonstrated that without the Gibe III filling, the lake's natural response would otherwise have been to rise (KENWEB, 2017). It is well known that fisheries boom with rising water level and bust with falling lake level.
Several aspects are likely to affect the OUV of the property: 1) The time it will take the lake to regain its natural equilibrium after impounding of Gibe III and IV; 2) The impacts of dampened flow variations on the ecology of the lake (annual lake level fluctuation expected to decline from 1.2 to 0.8 m) (AfDB 2010; Uni. of Oxford 2012; SOC, 2015); 3) The increased irrigation abstractions that will develop downstream to exploit the regulated flows from Gibe III and IV.
The Gibe III and IV reservoirs will trap nutrients that would otherwise flow to the lake, and changes in the flooding regime of the river downstream of Gibe III and IV will diminish the prospects for traditional flood recession agriculture, and will alter the nutrient scouring effects of the river, and will impact the replenishment of oxbows and other natural depressions that would otherwise be inundated by floodwaters that recharge the underlying aquifers. Furthermore, the reduction of freshwater inflows to the lake due to water capture within the Gibe III and IV reservoirs will lead to an increase in lake salinity.
On the other hand, the Gibe III and IV dams could protect the area against devastating flooding by regulating the levels of the Omo River, although no such evidence appears to exist. Flooding is important for traditional recession cultivation, grazing, replenishment of water sources and fish breeding.
The Omo River is also used for irrigation of sugar plantations, the so-called Kuraz sugar scheme. By early 2017, about 30,000 ha had been cleared. However, the plantations along the river have a limited impact on the OUV of the property at present (UNESCO/IUCN, 2015). According to Ethiopia, the sugar scheme will use 4-6% of the river flow of the Omo River for irrigation purposes once the whole sugar scheme is in operation (SOC, 2015). Predictions of other sources however have been much less conservative, suggesting severe potential danger to the OUV. The draft EIA for the Kuraz project dated 2012 stated that 29% of the river water would be abstracted under full operation. In the later Kuraz feasibility report dated December 2014, it was stated that 18% of the river would be abstracted. The impacts on the OUV on the mid- and long term therefore have to be closely monitored.
Especially the accumulated impact of the different uses of the water sources, together with severe drought and other factors, can significantly affect the OUV of the property, with sources that suggest the lake could drop between 16 and 22 m (Uni. of Oxford, 2012 & 2013; KENWEB, 2017).
There is no threat from the sugar plantations for the fossils, as the reduction of the plantations to a maximum of 100.000 hectares increased the buffer zone between the plantations and Lake Turkana national parks.
Between the late 1800s and the mid-1900s, the late level fell significantly. Since the mid-1900s, the lake level then rose before falling in the 1980s, and has since fluctuated, being on a general rising water level trend since 1992, and having risen over three metres between 1992 and 2005 when the Gibe III filling commenced (KENWEB, 2017).
Periodic droughts and climate change exacerbate the problems associated with upstream use of water, denying the lake of the fresh water needed to compensate for evaporation losses (since the lake has no outflow). Furthermore, the salinity of the lake can be expected to increase further due to increased evaporation as proof exists that global warming in the area leads to a general rise in temperature and periods of drought around the lake (International Rivers, 2016). On the other hand, there is an increasing catchment runoff trend with anthropogenic activity that tends to offset the increased evaporation loss (Univ. of Oxford, 2012).
In Sibiloi National Park, the inadequate wildlife protection and widely accessible firearms are leading to a decline in wildlife populations, with the few remaining large mammals are concentrated in the most secure parts of the property, confirming that poaching is a significant threat. Reliable recent data is missing, but certain flagship species, such as reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra are reported to have disappeared altogether from the area since the property was listed (SOC, 2012). Also topi, Grant’s gazelle, lions, oryx and Burchell’s zebra are virtually absent. Another factor that reduces the amount of wild animals in the area is the encroachment of livestock.
Central Island and South Island National Parks are not inhabited and hence pastoralism is not practiced in these parks.
Fishing however is a significant threat to the wildlife populations of the islands, notably the crocodile population.
Radar altimetric data from satellites show that water levels in Lake Turkana fell two metres during the filling of Gibe III's reservoir (KENWEB, 2017), and the fisheries is reported to have declined (as reported in the film "Water to Dust"screened on Nation TV in Kenya in 2017), thus enhancing the chances for conlict. While the Central Island and South Island National Parks are uninhabited, local pastoralists are allowed grazing rights in Sibiloi National Park in the dry season and pressure for resources from the park is likely to escalate (UNEP-WCMC, 2012).
Since the 1960s, fishing has become an important livelihood, being practiced throughout the lake on an artisanal basis principally by Turkana fishermen. Fisheries experts have correctly predicted that the lake fisheries would be negatively impacted by the development-induced hydrological changes in the Omo. During the filling of the Gibe III reservoir, the lake fell two metres and the fisheries catches declined, as had been predicted.
Due to the major Gibe III and Gibe IV hydro power plants, the annual flooding regime will diminish, resulting in negative effects on the recruitment of young fish and the production of adults of all kinds of species with commercial value.
The potential threat from oil exploration and extraction on Lake Turkana is currently unknown, but given its distance from the property, may be limited. However any accidental spills near a tributary of the Lake could lead to significant impacts.
In the last few years, the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia worked together on the border region, including Lake Turkana and the utilization of the resources of the Omo River Basin (UNESCO World Heritage Centre - IUCN, 2015). They committed themselves to collaborating under the umbrella of the Joint Ministerial Commission to protect the OUV of the site (Kenya and Ethiopia, 2016).
In 2015, the Governments of Kenya and Ethiopia signed the Memorandum of Understanding Cross Border Integrated Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socioeconomic Transformation between Marsabit County of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Borana Zone. The MoU covers, among other topics, environmental protection. One of the goals of the programme is to “improve environmental consideration of sustainable and inclusive use of resources consistent with the new Sustainable Development Goals”. It is unclear if the MoU includes provisions to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts of the Kuraz Sugar Scheme and Gibe III (World Heritage Committee, 2016).
In 2015 the two governments also signed a UNEP coordinated project Support to Sustainable Development in Lake Turkana and its River Basins with the goal to enhance capacity of the governments and stakeholders to sustainably and equitably manage the ecosystem and its ecosystem services in the basin. The aim is, among others, to minimize the pressure on natural resources and monitor the health of the ecosystems and trans-boundary governance of the ecosystem.
Besides being understaffed, the park management has insufficient vehicles and fuel, and are under armed compared to poachers and the local populace.
Although no data is available, the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya recently took several preliminary initiatives to improve the knowledge of the site and its surroundings, in part after strong recommendations of the World Heritage Committee, including the establishment of a joint expert panel (World Heritage Committee, 2015), the adoption of terms of reference for a stock taking exercise on the ecosystem (Anon., sd).The World Heritage Committee urged Ethiopia and Kenya to urgently undertake a SEA regarding the effects on Lake Turkana of big development projects in the region, such as the Kuraz Sugar Scheme and Gibe III and future other hydro power plants (UNESCO World Heritage Centre - IUCN, 2015). The SEA is now planned to be finished in 2018; 3) The state parties have expressed their intention to organise a wildlife census as soon as possible, after strong urges by the World Heritage Committee. The census should serve as a baseline for future reference (World Heritage Committee, 2015).
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||Friends of Lake Turkana||Friends of Lake Turkana is a Kenyan organization whose objective is to strengthen natural resource management in the Lake Turkana Basin. The organisation has engaged stakeholders from Lake Turkana basin in dialogue about the current status of oil exploration and production, dam construction and other major infrastructural development in the region and the implication of these initiatives on the land rights, environment and culture of the people.|
|2||Save Lake Turkana Movement||A Kenyan youth-driven organization that raises awareness about Lake Turkana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVskqANY8FE&feature=youtu.be|
|3||National Museums of Kenya||Fossil and anthropological research|
|4||Kenya Wildlife Service||Wildlife conservation and management|
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||Clean energy||Develop clean energy initiatives to reduce over exploitation of trees for fuelwood and charcoal (UN Country teams of Ethiopia and Kenya and IGAD, sd).||
|2||Responsible tourism||Develop and increase responsible tourism in the cross-border region (UN Country teams of Ethiopia and Kenya and IGAD, sd).||
|3||Impact assessments||Undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment to supplement existing studies to update the known impacts of the different development projects on Lake Turkana, such as Gibe III and the Kuraz Sugar Scheme, and other plantation irrigation schemes in Kenya and the Omo Basin, and Gibe IV and Gibe V in the future, and undertake Environmental Impact Assessments for all projects on a full consultative basis in accordance with Kenyan, Ethiopian and international standards, for the Kuraz Sugar Scheme and other plantation developments too, and properly evaluate the economic cost of the associated loss of natural capital when determining the feasibility of the proposed developments. Delay any developments in the region until these assessments have taken place (AfDB 2010; Univ. of Oxford 2012; UNESCO/IUCN, 2015).||
|4||Wildlifecensus||Conduct a wildlife census to obtain insight in the status of wildlife in the parks and buffer zones to establish a baseline to monitor their recovery (UNESCO World Heritage Centre - IUCN, 2015).||
|5||Water management||Address and monitor water quality and water flow in the light of the operation of Gibe III and the Kuraz Sugar Scheme, and also in the light of the future of Gibe IV and Gibe V hydropower projects, and other irrigated plantation developments in the Lower Omo. Ensure sufficient water flow to Lake Turkana (UNESCO/IUCN, 2015). Maintain a seasonal flooding regime that conserves the lake ecology.||
|6||Policy||Implement the transboundary water agreement between the Government of Kenya and the Government of Ethiopia and mobilise an independent Technical Monitoring Committee within the framework of the UNEP project Support to Sustainable Development in Lake Turkana and its River Basins (UNESCO/IUCN, 2015). Moreover, develop an integrated water-resources management plan for the lower Omo.||
|7||Stakeholders||Involve stakeholders, experts and civil society in any development decisions.||
|8||World Heritage in Danger Status.||Inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger||
|9||Management resources||Allocate sufficient budget and skilled staff to the site.||
|10||Population growth||Improve literacy levels in the local population through education and investment in local infrastructure and promote family planning and reduce population growth around the parks.||
|11||Cross-border collaboration||Increase political will and cross-border collaboration (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya and the United Nations Environment Programme, 2015) to conserve natural resources and promote the principle that there is economic value in natural capital. In a similar vein, implement the Joint Project on Support to Sustainable Development in Lake Turkana and its River Basins, based on joint ownership and leadership between Kenya and Ethiopia, an integrated basin development approach that fosters evidence-based decision making and integration of stakeholders, resulting in 1) an institutional coordination mechanism for the sustainable management of the basins; 2) improved knowledge of the ecosystem for its sustainable development and management; 3) harmonized and compatible strategies for its sustainable and integrated management; 4) improved livelihood provisions for local communities; 5) a monitoring mechanism for the basins ecosystem and ecosystem services (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya and The United Nations Environment Programme, 2015). Also implement the Cross-border Integrated Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socioeconomic Transformation: Marsabit County, Kenya and Borana Zone, Ethiopia to strengthen social cohesion and bring sustainable peace and development to the region. Amongst other aims, this programme should enhance sustainable development and effective management of natural resources, whilst decreasing conflict potential over natural resources (UN Country teams of Ethiopia and Kenya and IGAD, sd).||
African Development Bank (AfDB), 2009 & 2010, “Hydrological Impacts Of Ethiopia’s Omo Basin On Kenya’s Lake Turkana Water Levels & Fisheries”
|2||Anon. (n.d.). Sustainable Management of Lake Turkana Basin Ecosystem Component 2: Ecosystem assessment, s.l.: s.n.|
|3||BirdLife International (2017) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Turkana. <http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/lake-turkana-ib…;|
|4||EAWLS (East African Wildlife Society), “What future for Lake Turkana and its Wildife?”, SWARA Magazine, January-March 2014, www.eawildlife.org|
|5||Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya and The United Nations Environment Programme (2015). Joint Project on Support to Sustainable Development in Lake Turkana and its River Basins, presentation delivered at Sustainable Development of Lake Turkana and its River Basins 1st Consultative Meeting with Development Partners. Nairobi, Kenya, s.n.|
|6||Fishbase (2017) [website] <http://www.fishbase.org/tools/region/FB4Africa/FB4Africa.ht…;, accessed June 2017|
|7||Hilton-Barber, B and L. R. Berger (2002). Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind. Cape Town: Struik Nature|
International Rivers (2016) www.internationalrivers.org. [Online]
Available at: https://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/omo-river-lak…
[Accessed 17 December 2016].
|9||KENWEB (Kenya Wetlands Biodiversity Research Team), National Museums of Kenya. Hydrological Impacts of Ethiopia’s Omo Basin’s Development on Kenya’s Lake Turkana, Presentation by Eng. Dr. Sean Avery to African Great Lakes Conference, Entebbe, Uganda, 2017|
|10||LAPSSET [website] <http://www.lapsset.go.ke/>|
|11||Lake Turkana Wind Power [website] <www.ltwp.co.ke>|
|12||McDade, P. (Tullow Oil plc.), 2015. Ref: CLT/WHC/P/SPU-AFR/12-255, London, United Kingdom: Tullow Oil plc..|
|13||Nation TV, award winning film on threats to Lake Turkana, “Water to Dust”, screened early 2017, <https://youtu.be/AVskqANY8FE>|
|14||Njuguna, S. (2001). Lake Turkana National Park, Provisional Integrated Management Plan, 2001-5|
|15||Obiero et al. (2017) The Nexus of dam construction, oil exploration and resource use conflicts: Vulnerability of fishing communities in Lake Turkana Kenya, African Great Lakes Conference, Entebbe.|
|16||States Parties of Kenya and Ethiopia (2016). A joint report on Kenya-Ethiopia bilateral talks held from 8th to 12th February 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya to implement the World Heritage Committee decision 39 COM 7B.4 regarding Lake Turkana National Parks World Heritage Site, Nairobi: s.n.|
|17||The Government of the Republic of Kenya through the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, 2016. Request for expressions of interest for a consultant to carry out an environmental and social impact assessment for the proposed Lokichar-Lamu crude oil export pipeline, Kenya: The Government of the Republic of Kenya.|
|18||UN Country teams of Ethiopia and Kenya and IGAD, n.d. Cross-border integrated programme for sustainable peace and socioeconomic transformation: Marsabit County, Kenya and Borana Zone, Ethiopia (Draft programme document), s.l.: UN Country teams of Ethiopia and Kenya and IGAD.|
|19||UNEP-WCMC (2012). Lake Turkana National Parks, Kenya. UNEP-WCMC World Heritage Information Sheets. Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC.|
|20||UNESCO (2012) Report on the State of Conservation of Lake Turkana National Parks. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/documents/>.|
|21||UNESCO (2013) Report on the State of Conservation of Lake Turkana National Parks. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/documents/>.|
|22||UNESCO (2015) Report on the State of Conservation of Lake Turkana National Parks. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/documents/>.|
|23||UNESCO (2016) Report on the State of Conservation of Lake Turkana National Parks. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/801/documents/>.|
|24||UNESCO and IUCN (2012) Reactive Monitoring Mission to Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya). Paris, France and Gland, Switzerland: UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN.|
|25||UNESCO and IUCN (2015) Report on the Reactive Monitoring Mission: Gibe III Dam and Kuraz Sugar Plantation (Ethiopia) for Lake Turkana National Parks World Heritage Property (Kenya) From 3 to 7 April 2015, Paris, France: UNESCO.|
|26||University Of Oxford (2012) Lake Turkana & The Lower Omo: Hydrological Impacts of Major Dam & Irrigation Developments <http://www.africanstudies.ox.ac.uk/lake-turkana-and-lower-o…;|
|27||University of Oxford (2013) “What future Lake Turkana?”, <http://www.africanstudies.ox.ac.uk/what-future-lake-turkana…;|
W.O. Ojwang, , K.O. Obiero, O.O. Donde, N. Gownaris, E.K. Pikitch, R. Omondi, S. Agembe, J. Malala, S. T. Avery (2016) Lake Turkana: World’s Largest Permanent Desert Lake (Kenya), Springer eBook
|29||World Heritage Committee (2011) Decision 35 COM 8E Lake Turkana National Parks Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (Kenya). <http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4408>|