Flower farms face closure after Lake Naivasha ‘inquest’
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Many flower farms in Naivasha — the country’s main horticultural base — could have their licences withdrawn if it is proved that the effluent polluting the lake is discharged from them.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 collected last week 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 sediments.
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.
Such an eventuality 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.
The Kenya Flower Council says the country is the leading supplier of cut flowers to the European Union.
The council and the Lake Naivasha Growers Group have issued a joint statement urging the government and the relevant bodies to establish the cause of the death of the lake’s wildlife.
The two organisations say they have for over a decade championed responsible farm practices through a voluntary code of practice.
“Only growers adhering to the code may use the Kenya Flower Council logo on their produce, farms, lorries and stationery”, said chief executive officer Jane Ngige. “To date, some five growers remain suspended while two have been expelled,” she said.
The council is petitioning the government to make it mandatory for all growers to join an association that requires them to adhere to a code of practice.
“To safeguard the industry and the billions of shillings of investment, millions of jobs and foreign exchange from the flower sector, action must be taken to ensure that the incidents happening in the lake are not repeated,” the statement said.
Should the flower farms be found to be responsible for the adverse effects on Lake Naivasha, the government would have a tough decision to make — choosing between revenue and environmental conservation.
Already, according to an expert involved in the inquiry, Lake Naivasha is a wetland of international importance whose management and conservation are based on the principles of the Ramsar Convention, to which Kenya is a signatory.
Additional reporting by Catherine Riungu