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February 28, 2010

Kenyan flower farms around lake face closure over pollution fears

by Cosmas Butunyi

Another shocker awaits Kenya’s flower industry, which is still recovering from the slump sparked by the global economic meltdown.

Many flower farms in Naivasha — the country’s main horticultural base — could have their licences withdrawn if it is proved that the effluent polluting the lake is discharged from them. Lately, there has been massive deaths of fish and other living organisms in Lake Naivasha.

Environmentalists are eagerly awaiting the results of samples recently collected from the area. Preliminary findings of an inquiry by a team of experts blame flower farms for the dire state of the lake. A fishing ban is currently in effect following the mysterious death of over 1,000 fish this month.

Investigators from the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute are analysing samples of dead fish, lake water and sediment.

The samples were sent to the Government Chemist and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) for further tests. Samples of the effluent discharged by flower farms will also be analysed.

Lately, the level of water in the lake has also fallen, owing to various factors — over extraction by the farms and Naivasha town, effects of climate change and lower volumes supplied to it by its main tributaries.

If the results corroborate the preliminary findings, the government could withdraw environmental impact assessment and audit licences issued to the farms, without which they cannot operate.

The Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act gives the Nema director general the power to revoke licences of establishments that pollute the environment. That would deal a blow to horticulture, the country’s main export industry.

Last year, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says the country earned $405.5 million from export of 87,042 metric tonnes of cut flowers. Though a 33 per cent drop from the previous year, due to effects of the global cash crunch, this was the highest revenue among the horticultural crops.

 East African

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