Tanzania talking to Kenya over proposed dam on Mara River

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Constantine Kanyasu,

Dodoma. The government reiterated on April 29 that it was negotiating with Kenyan authorities to stop the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Mara River.

This follows reports that the neighbouring country would construct dams on the 400-kilometre long river, which originates from the Mau Forest that until recently was in crisis.

The Mara River empties into Lake Victoria, a shared lake whose conservation, utilisation and exploitation for economic resources is administered through a host of East African Community (EAC) protocols.

The river, with a drainage area covering 13,504 square kilometres, is also considered the lifeline of millions of wild animals in the Serengeti ecosystem and the multi-million tourism industry in both countries.

It lies across the path of the world-famous wildebeest migration.

Kenya’s acting director of trans-boundary waters at the ministry of Water, Ms Gladys Wekesa, was quoted a few months ago as saying that as of now, no construction has started.

The EAC Treaty, to which Tanzania and Kenya are signatories, calls for the promotion of sustainable utilisation of the natural resources of the partner states and taking measures that would effectively protect the natural environment.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Constantine Kanyasu, said Tanzania was still in consultation with Kenya over halting plans to construct  the planned dams.

“The dams will lead to an adverse impact on the Serengeti ecosystem, including the loss of some species due to lack of water in the Mara River during the dry season,” said Kanyasu.

Responding to a question by Amina Mollel (Special Seats-CCM), MrKanyasu said negotiations for stopping the implementation of the planned dams were being coordinated by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) under the ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation.

He said discussions started immediately after Tanzania learnt that Kenya was planning to build the dam in 2016.

In her principal question, MsMollel wanted to know what the government was doing about stopping Kenya from implementing the projects.

She also wanted to know what decision Tanzania would take in case Kenya maintains its position and goes ahead to construct the dams.

“The existence of the Mara River is the lifeline of the Serengeti. We have commissioned Tanzania National Parks Authority to look out for any sign of the construction of the projects,” the minister responded.

This is not the first time that Tanzania and Kenya find themselves scrambling for a shared resource, mostly due to climate change outcomes and the instant gratification of tourism dollars.