Words from Kenya

Cancer in the Chalbi Desert

Water Hole Near Kargi

There has been some long overdue publicity recently about the abnormally high levels of cancer in the Chalbi Desert area of northern Kenya (see this Standard article and this KTN video). There is some evidence to suggest that the high rates of cancer may be linked to toxins in the water. Many people believe that there is a connection between the oil exploration that occurred in the area in the 1980s and the contaminated water sources.

It seems important that this should be investigated more thoroughly, both to aid the people who currently live in the Chalbi Desert and also for future generations here and in other parts of northern Kenya where oil is being discovered. How will we know, for example, that the necessary precautions are being taken to ensure that the newly discovered aquifers in Turkana are not contaminated during the process of oil exploration or extraction there.

It also surprises me that nobody is talking about the current oil exploration in the Chalbi Desert. Tullow and partners African Oil have the rights to look for oil in that area and they have drilled a well close to Kargi, Pai Pai, and found oil there. According to a press statement from Tullow they weren’t able to extract it so they have moved the rig to their current success area in Turkana . They have not yet abandoned the well or their rights to the block however.

As we try to understand what might have caused the water source under the Chalbi Desert to be contaminated in the past we should also be concerned for what could be happening now, or in the future.


  1. Tom mchimba says

    The water sources were contaminated earlier by the authorities at that time to prevent human habitation on that area since there were prospects of oil. It was designed for speculation purposes…….just a thought

  2. Jonathan Stevenson says

    @ Tom mchimba:

    That’s interesting Tom. Can you tell me when this happened or point me to further sources of information. Thanks

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