To domesticate wetlands definition and allow for broader consideration of crucial catchment areas, Kenya has through the National Wetlands Standing Committee (NWSC) defined Kenyan wetlands as, “areas of land that are permanently, seasonally or occasionally waterlogged with fresh, saline, brackish or marine waters at a depth not exceeding six meters, including both natural and man-made areas that support characteristic biota”.
This national definition covers biodiversity conservation and also allows exploitation of wetlands under the “wise use” principle. According to the Kenya National Environment Action Plan (NEAP), prepared in 1994, a substantial proportion of Kenya’s water resources is found in wetlands, which cover 2 to 3% of the country’s surface area.
These wetlands are diverse in type and distribution. Some of the larger wetlands of Kenya include the shallow lakes Magadi, Kanyaboli, Jipe, Chala, Ol’Bolossat, Amboseli and Kamnarok; the edges of Lake Victoria and Lorian, Saiwa, Yala, Shompole swamps; Lotikipi (Lotagipi) and Kano plains; Kisii valley bottoms and Tana Delta; and coastal wetlands including the mangroves swamps, sandy beaches, sea grass beds and coral reefs.
The list also includes various seasonal and temporary wetlands that occur where internal drainage allows water to collect in some seasons or in some years. These are found all over the country, including rock pools and springs in the southern part of Nairobi, west of Ngong Hills, and at Limuru. Man-made wetlands include the dams, primarily meant for hydropower and water supply, and wetlands created for purposes of wastewater treatment. This list is by no means exhaustive since inventory is still ongoing.