IMPACTS OF CONSTRUCTION ON WETLANDS IN BUNGOMA MUNICIPALITY

1.0 Background information

It is always difficult to generalize about wetlands because they are so diverse with respect to their hydrology, plant communities and landscape position. In a real sense, no two wetlands are similar in their quality or function. In addition, the nature of land development (property development) in the areas covered with wetlands often differs greatly from site to site (Tiffany Wright et al. Undated).

Despite this variability, several consistent and similar impacts can be observed in different wetlands around the country with the severity being most profound in urban areas.

Linda McDowell (1981) argues that if the 19th century was referred to as the century of industrial revolution, the twentieth century might equally as well be dubbed the century of urban revolution. Statistics point out that in the last 70 years, the world’s urban population has more than quadrupled. Therefore among the contemporary issues, Urbanization and growth of cities is the most profound trend in its impact on the way we live. (UN-Habitat, 2009).

Cities present unparalleled opportunities for creating wealth and prosperity. They are the driving force of global trade and engines of economic growth. In addition cities are the nexus of our global financial markets and service centres of our information society. Urbanization contributes to sustained economic growth which is critical to poverty reduction. The economies of scale and agglomeration in cities attract investors and entrepreneurs which is good for overall economic growth. Cities also provide opportunities for many, particularly the poor who are attracted by greater job prospects, the availability of services, and for some, an escape from constraining social and cultural traditions in rural villages (UN-HABITAT,2009).

On the other hand, urban areas bring about irreversible changes in consumption and production patterns especially in land use, water, energy and other natural resources. With over half of the World’s population living in cities, urban areas are already consuming most of the world’s energy and natural resources while generating the bulk of our waste. Many cities also harbor very many worrisome trends in terms of permanent destabilization of natural settings and environmental destruction.

In the contemporary World Economic view, the term sustainable development cannot be overemphasized when it comes to urban development vis a vis environmental concerns.  In addition, it is been argued that housing consumes 60 to 70% of major land use in urban areas          depending on the level of population density (Syagga 2012).

 It therefore goes without saying that housing is the major cause of urban environmental degradation not only from the construction process effects but also from the resulting human settlements activities. As noted earlier most of these effects bring about irreversible environmental degradation which leads to permanent loss of some vital ecosystems previously prevalent in these urban areas. In support of this, Tiffany Wright (undated) points out that development in urban and rural areas is the cause of more than 60% of national wetland loss.

A casual observation of some settlement areas in Bungoma town such as Mashambani   and Sinoko, among others reveals massive destruction of Wetlands largely resulting from effects of construction activities. These wetlands were initially areas of grazing and grass harvesting as well as sources of water for domestic use. But now it appears, the community perception on these traditional uses of wetlands has shifted. Another trend is that land traditionally used to be communally owned, but due to urbanization and high population growth, individual land ownership is popular.

It could be for these reasons that individuals want to maximize profitability from their property and it appears that property development is the best alternative.