Illegal logging and charcoal burning in parts of Mt Kenya Forest are threatening the water tower.
Livestock grazing and human settlements in the forest have also led to drying up of Thegu and Sagana rivers.
Some residents are abusing the plantation establishment and livelihood improvement scheme, which was introduced by the Kenya Forest Service. They are carrying out unregulated farming in the forest, which is also ruining the water tower.
Under the system, beneficiaries are supposed to plant indigenous trees and take care of them for three years but this is not happening. The most affected part is the western block of Kabaru Forest, which has about 3,000 farmers.
â€œMbogo-ini (within Kabaru Forest) used to abound with trees. It was an elephant corridor, but people have now encroached it. They have cut down many indigenous trees to pave the way for farming, which is not good for the Mt Kenya ecosystem,â€ Mt Kenya Forest Association Chairman Charles Maimba said Wednesday.
â€œThe people who are destroying the water tower are the locals in collaboration with forest officers,â€ said Mr Maimba.
He said several members of a community forest association were allocated a quarter of an acre each in Mbogo-ini after paying Sh500.
The practice is having adverse effects even on communities living far from the Mt Kenya region.
River Ewaso Nyiro, which drains from the ecosystem and waters pastures, now runs dry for around 100 days a year.
Nyeri County Ecosystem Conservator Muchiri Mathenji said in lower Kabaru, among other areas, some people have been spotted at night attempting to engage in charcoal burning.
â€œA number of these people have been arrested. We urge residents to be on the lookout, especially when they are collecting firewood,â€ said Mr Mathenji.