A wildfire has engulfed the slopes of Mount Kenya, the namesake country's highest peak, damaging miles of natural preserves and pasture land in addition to threatening valuable sources of water.
"In the areas we have managed to visit, the loss of vegetation is large, at least 20,000 hectares," said an officer with the Kenya Forest service. The latest fire is just one in a series of wildfires that has plagued the region for more than a month. "The wildfire which broke out last month but was stopped, started again two weeks ago and burnt more areas we have not visited," the officer explained.
So far, at least 500 families have been displaced, their livelihoods destroyed. This has raised concerns over conflicts between pastoralists in the region.
Another concern is that Mount Kenya acts as a "water tower" for the country, supplying drinking water to Nairobi and other population centers. More importantly, the waters fed by the mountain account for 70 percent of the nation's hydroelectric power.
The Kenya Forest Service has been working to fight the fire but—due to its remote and high-elevation location—have had trouble adequately containing the blaze. According to officials, rangers lack the equipment and helicopter support necessary to effectively fight the fire.