By Treezer Michelle Atieno

The degradation of rivers in Kakamega County, especially River Ikoha in Shinyalu Sub County, is a critical environmental issue that has significant implications for the local ecosystem and the communities that rely on these water bodies. The degradation,   a result of various human activities like mining, leads to adverse effects on water quality, aquatic biodiversity, and the overall health of the river systems.

Mining along River Ikoha is one of the primary contributors to its degradation, followed by deforestation and land use changes. As a result, the water quality has deteriorated, affecting aquatic habitats and the overall ecological balance of the river ecosystems.  This has forced some residents of Shiyalu to take to social media to speak out their disappointment to the county government and the National Environmental Management Authority for failing to have field officers to regulate and oversee mining activities in Kakamega.

Artisanal gold mining in Kakamega along river Ikoha has affected it in several ways. “Some of the gold miners dig large pits on the river banks in pursuit of more gold Sometimes they temporarily block the river from flowing so that they can wash items used in mining,” says Benson Aseka from Shinyalu.

The degradation of rivers in Shinyalu Sub County has far-reaching consequences for local communities that depend on these water bodies for domestic use, agriculture and fishing. Diminished water quality affects public health as communities are exposed to contaminated water sources, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.

While the government has a role in conserving rivers, community engagement is also crucial for raising awareness of the importance of preserving river ecosystems and fostering a sense of stewardship among local residents. Collaborative efforts involving government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutions, and community-based organizations are essential for implementing integrated watershed management approaches that address human-induced impacts and natural processes affecting river degradation.

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