Residents of remote O’Loropil village in Ilchamus ward, Baringo South subcounty, are scared after a huge sinkhole formed in their land.

The sleepy village is one of many sandwiched between the fast-rising Lake Baringo, Lake 94 and the saline Lake Bogoria, all in the Rift Valley.

“The shocking sinkhole phenomenon started with smoke before the earth surface suddenly sank and spewed out water a few minutes later,” Dominic Lemerige says. Residents would like to know what triggered the formation, but no answer is forthcoming.

The sinkhole measures 10 to 12 feet in diameter and the water is about a foot from the rim. The level of the water in the sinkhole has remained the same, further spooking residents.

“The sinkhole may be a sign of something dangerous. It may even cause entire villages to sink,” Baringo South administrator Hellen Juma says. She has urged locals to quickly move to higher ground.

The area has been battered by heavy rains for five months, since April. Other Rift Valley lakes – Turkana, Nakuru, Naivasha, Elementita, Solai and Magadi – have also flooded.


The area around lakes Baringo, 94 and Bogoria has also experienced earth tremors.

Loruk resident Alex Sarit says the tremors strike between 8pm and 11pm. He says the tremors can be felt about 10 kilometres from the lakes and last for about a minute.

Residents have spotted fissures in Lake Baringo’s Kokwo and Komolion islands. “More cracks are forming. This could be a sign of major disasters,” Ilchamus MCA Joseph ole Parsalach says.

Last week, Baringo Governor Stanley Kitpis said it is a situation never seen before. He appealed to scientists to visit the area and help them make sense of it.


Local experts have, however, warned that the worst is yet to come if the rain persists.

Dr Clement Lenashuru, a lecturer at Egerton University’s Department of Natural Resources, attributes the goings-on to the excessive rain.

He says destructive human activities such as rampant deforestation, mining and geothermal explorations could also be possible causes.

Lenashuru, who is also an ecologist, says all Rift Valley lakes lack feasible outlets. He said the tiny outlets underneath the rocky surfaces seem to have been overwhelmed, forcing the surplus water to find other exits.

“It ends up exploding and spreading on the earth surface, causing the wild flooding,” he says.

The Rift Valley contains active volcanoes, hot springs, geysers and experiences tremors.

“By the look of things, the worst may occur. The swelling water bodies might end up merging in future and slicing the Rift Valley into two. It may probably happen in the next 100 years,” he says.


Kenya’s Nature Trust director Gilbert Kiptalam blames the ecological disasters on destructive human activities. “Nature will hardly forgive mankind for their global environmental destructions,” he says.

The Great Rift Valley covers 6000km running from Beqaa Valley in Northern Lebanon in Asia to Mozambique in Southeast Africa.

Kiptalam says white scientists who studied the Rift Valley in the early 1870s warned against carrying out drilling, excavations or geothermal exploration.

He says successive governments have ignored the recommendation and licensed companies to mine, sinkhole and carry out geothermal exploration.

The Geothermal Development Company is through with the first steam well drilling at Korossi in Tiaty subcounty, Baringo county.

“We are targeting 3000 Megawatts of electric power energy and so in Baringo alone we are committed to drill up to 20 rigs for the next 20 years,” says GDC North Rift regional coordinator John Lagat.

He says they have set up the Olkaria station in Nakuru county, over the last 30 years, which now supplies 185mw of power to the national grid.

Kiptalam says, “Human activities may have definitely disturbed the earth’s tectonic plates, tilting and destabilising the underneath bed-rocks.”

He further criticises the Environment ministry for allowing people to encroach on riparian land.

Dr Lenashuru wants an early warning system put in place and contingency measures acted upon to save lives and livelihoods.

“Proper mechanisms are required to prepare our people on what to expect, move them to safer grounds, provide them with climate-adaptive livelihoods, right crops, right livestock, safe homes and disease controls,” he says.

Lenashuru says Kenya has not received heavy rains in 10 years. “The East African region is currently receiving immense rainfall, since April,” he says.

Research done by the Water Resources Authority in 2013 showed the levels in all the Rift Valley lakes were overwhelming. “Water levels have already surpassed the gauging equipment,” the study noted.

Physical landmarks such as rocks have been covered by the water.

the lakes have spread three to eight kilometres from their original shorelines.


The flooded lakes have left thousands of residents homeless. Thousands of acres of farmlands and crops have been destroyed.

“My family and I are lucky to be alive. We woke up this morning only to find the water at our doorstep,” says Loruk resident Wesley Cheptumo.

He quickly mobilised village youths to disassemble his house.

Facilities such as hotels, schools, churches and dispensaries have been submerged and roads rendered impassable. More than 30 schools are submerged.

Residents want them urgently relocated and allocated funds for the reconstruction of new structures.

Leshan ole Supen, a Marigat-based community leader, says, “We experience challenges relocating the affected people.” He says the majority of the locals are poor and cannot afford shelter and food.

He urges well-wishers and humanitarian agencies to donate food and non-food items such as tents, clothes, drugs, utensils and mosquito nets.

Supen says vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly and pregnant women are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases.

Lake Baringo Water Rescue and Safety International chairman Joshua Chepsergon terms the water volumes “worrying.”

He says the lakes have spread three to eight kilometres from their original shorelines.

He says the Prosopis Juliflora (Mathenge) weed has aggravated the situation by blocking the water’s paths.

Last week, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa visited the lake and attributed the rising water levels to climate change.

He said the government will do everything possible to help the affected residents.

Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren says more is needed to compensate, resettle and stabilise the affected residents.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi visited and sympathised with the displaced residents. “We will look at the possibilities of digging huge tunnels to pour excess water from the lakes to have the invasive floods sorted once and for all,” he said.

The article is originally published at the star.