A dry, cracked and desolate sunken bed is what is left at the place where the waters of a tributary of River Athi, south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, once flowed.

It is months since residents saw water flow in the river, which initially was always full that the government had to upgrade a lower bridge that crossed it.

In its hey days, pastoralists from the Maasai community would flock the river to water their animals even during dry spell.

But that is now a distant past, today not even a drop of water can be seen on the river.

The river is a reflection of what is happening with others across the east African nation as climate change, pollution and a host of other harmful human activities take a toll on rivers.

A majority of them have dried up completely, while a few others are hanging on amid heavy pollution and human encroachment.

“We now rely on boreholes to water our animals. Initially, there were many streams around, a majority of them seasonal but we would not lack water. They are now all gone,” Moses Soika, a herder in Kitengela, south of Nairobi, said recently.

Soika, now 26 years old, recalled how years ago he would accompany his parents to water their animals at the River Athi tributary, whose source is around Ngong Forest, south west of Nairobi, which is now depleted due to deforestation.

“We would go there when drought was at its worst but we would still get water. Now we have to buy water from boreholes,” he said.

It has not rained in many parts of Kenya for months, with the dry spell blamed on the effects of climate change. Kenya’s March to May long rains season failed, according to the Meteorological Department. And so was the 2018 October to December rain season.

But this is not all that is hurting rivers in the east African, pollution from industries and households seem to have reached the peak amid poor policing.

In Mukuru slums in Nairobi, dirty black water snakes in front of tin shacks carrying all manner of dirt and debris that include plastic bottles.

Environmentalists argue that the river has dried due to the drought and all that is now flowing is effluents from factories and sewage from houses up stream.

The river’s water empty into River Athi which snakes all the way to the Indian Ocean at the Coast, some 400km away.

The drying of rivers has alarmed authorities, with the government moving to take action to save them from harmful human activities.

In May, the National Environmental Management Authority shut down 25 factories that were discharging effluent into Nairobi River. The agency’s director-general Geoffrey Wahungu said the move was to protect the river that is severely polluted as the government works to clean it.

In central Kenya, Chania and Thika Rivers are among those drying, with residents that relied on them for domestic and farm water feeling the pinch.

According to regional commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga, most of the little water remaining in the river has been channeled to farming activities, making them dry downstream.

In Rift Valley, the Mara River, one of the biggest in Kenya and a major source of water for wildlife in the world-acclaimed Maasai Mara Game Reserve is on its deathbed due to human settlement and encroachment in Mau Forest.

The government is currently working on a program to flush out illegal settlers in the forest to protect the water tower and dozens of rivers that rely on it, according to Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko. Enditem

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