There are many people in Mt Kenya who solely rely on the water that comes to the river from mountains. But with the problem of climate change and its drastic results, glaciers are gradually disappearing faster than previously observed, causing the rivers to dry up and resulting in violence over water.
A lot of people at Mt Kenya rely on these streams to irrigate their land and feed their animals. The glaciers that are located near the summit give out many streams, big and small, that further feed into rivers and supporting the lives of those residing around the mountain.
Now, the scenario is different and causing people to turn against each other. As per the Isaac Kalua – Chairman and Environmentalist of Kenya’s Water Tower Management Authority;
“The ice is melting away. The rivers flowing from the glaciers are not as full as they used to be. Some have dried up. And this is causing conflict downhill. When the melting starts, rivers first experience high flows because of the melting ice. But this subsequently reduces because the glaciers never really recover like they did before climate change became a reality. Because of this, there is less and less water in the rivers in the years that follow.”
Some statistics about melting glaciers in Mt Kenya
According to an estimate by the United Nations Environment Programme, there were a total of 18 glaciers which covered the summit till the last century, but out of these 18 only 10 remain.
Moreover, since 1934, the largest glacier – Lewis Glacier on Mt Kenya, has drastically decreased by almost 90% in its volume. This also makes it the highest rate of loss of ice volume that occurred around the century’s turn.
Like many other countries, Kenya too, is highly defenseless to the drastic consequences of climate change. The main reason for this is its exposure to rising temperatures, variability of rainfall and its dependence on farming.
Prevalent violence among the people
Since people and their animals do not have anything to eat, people are becoming hostile. Even in early March, some herders killed Tristan Voorspuy, an ex-British army officer as he was engaged in the inspection of a lodge that was burnt in a 24000-acre expensive ranch.
Similarly, a diverse herder group shot conservationist and renowned author Kuki Gallmann in a ranch.
Due to disappearing glaciers and a shortage of water and agriculture, the region has been facing massive invasions, vandalism by herders and violent behavior that not only drove away many tourists, but also makes investors steer clear of the region causing another problem of unemployment and the loss of jobs.
“The future of those further downhill looks bleak,” says Francis Karin, expert of food security and climate change.
This increasing violence and melting glaciers are only making things worse for the communities living around the mountains and we can only hope for the better.