By Gerald Tenywa
Lake Victoria is under threat mainly by human activities. Therefore, till June 5, World Environment Day, in a campaign, Save Lake Victoria, Vision Group media platforms is running investigative articles, programmes and commentaries highlighting the irresponsible human activities threatening the world’s second largest fresh water lake.
Authorities seem to be the in thing in the management of public resources these days. To improve efficiency in revenue collection, the Uganda Revenue Authority was created. To fix the roads, the Uganda National Roads Authority was established. To sort out the mess in Kampala City, we needed a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the results are there for all to see.
With Lake Victoria slowly dying from pollution and degradation of its catchment area, is it time to create an authority akin to KCCA, with a no-nonsense chief executive officer like KCCA’s Jennifer Musisi to manage it? The profile of the CEO for Lake Victoria Limited would be someone with demonstrated abilities to secure the future of the lake and livelihood of 30 million people in East Africa who depend on it directly and indirectly.
The greed and reckless nature of human activities in Lake Victoria catchment area is killing the lake.
The algal bloom, the green matter that sometimes covers the lake are symptoms of heavy pollution and silting. Dr. Aryamanya Mugisha, the former executive director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) blames primitive and harmful agricultural practices and indiscriminate felling of trees as some of the destructive activities that expose the land to erosive agents like rain, which wash the soils into the lake resulting into silting. The lake also faces pollution from industrial waste and untreated sewage from cities dotted around it.
Fishermen at Luzira landing site in Kampala offload firewood from Kome Islands. Luzira is one of the polluted areas of the lake. PHOTO/Gerald Tenywa
Why the pollution?
The greatest factors contributing to Lake Victoria pollution can be summed up into poverty, apathy, ignorance, unsustainable population growth and weak law enforcement. “People think about natural resources as free and God-given. Nobody cares,” laments Richard Musota, a senior water offi cer at the Directorate of Water Resources Management. “There is a need to get people to know how their actions are connected to the lake,” he argues.
Corruption, fuelled by powerful economic and political interests, has made law enforcement a challenge. Although an environment police was created, because of the many agencies that handle land-related issues in an uncoordinated manner, it becomes diffi cult to enforce the law. “For instance, what do you do to a wetland encroacher who has a land title and an approved plan from the local authority,” observed an environment agency offi cial who preferred anonymity.
Due to over-fi shing, the stock of Nile Perch on the lake has since 2005 dropped by 81% to 370,000 metric tons in 2008 resulting into a drop in earnings from fi sh exports from $143m to $115m last year. Because of over pollution, the cost of water treatment at Ggaba plant, which supplies Kampala’s two million people with water, has tripled over the last two decades.
Mud fish has been pushed away because of the dirty water at the lake shore
Is it time for a CEO?
While some experts agree that it is time for the lake to be managed in a business-like manner to sustain its resources, others say empowering the grassroots communities to manage the lake resources is the best option. “Yes, the CEO is part of the solution,” said Richard Kimbowa, the director for Uganda Coalition Sustainable Development. “We need passionate people who can move policy into action.
We need urban authorities, wetland managers, governors of land to be responsible,” he added. Godber Tumushabe, an environment civil society activist also agrees but warns against political patronage in favour of stronger institutions. “Institutions where President Yoweri Museveni has appointed his confi dants are working
But love it or hate it, it is the system that works,” he added. Stewards for the lake better than CEO Because protection of Lake Victoria is a shared responsibility with many actors in the different countries within the catchment area, engagement of lake stewards is a better option than having a CEO argues Dr. Arthur Mugisha, a representative of Flora and Fauna International (FFI). “We are building institutions that are not relevant to the local people,” said Mugisha. “There is increased funding and creation of institutions but the environment has continued being battered. “We need to empower local institutions,” argued Mugisha.
He pointed out that the responsibility of managing Lake Victoria has been relegated to people whose allegiance is not about the survival of the lake into the future but those mindful about how they can survive today. “Longer term interests and values have been discounted in favor of short-term gains.
If the last fish was taken out of the lake, it is the local residents that have nowhere else to take their families that will be worst hit,” Mugisha pointed out. Aryamanya, now a private consultant says the problem is not with the institutions or the laws, but implementation. He pointed out that Beach Management Units (BMUs), were grassroots institutions expected to reduce open access to the lake but have faced challenges.
The way forward The power and responsibilities of managing the lake should be given to the people who are not far removed from the lake, according to Arthur Mugisha. Without putting communities in the right place, the country is going to lose her fi sheries, drinking water, electricity and cultural properties. The water pumping plant at Ggaba, which is a source of drinking water for Kampala’s two million people, is literally “mining” water from filth.
This is because Murchison Bay, which is the mouth of Lake Victoria, receives sewage from the Nakivubo Channel. Kiwanuka Sonko, the manager at Ggaba Water Works, says the water treatment cost at Ggaba has gone up threefold over the last two decades with attendant costs on piped water price.
Also nutrients in the lake feed the water hyacinth and many other weeds that have invaded the lake in recent years.Mugisha. Without putting communities in the right place, the country is going to lose her fi sheries, drinking water, electricity and cultural properties. The water pumping plant at Ggaba, which is a source of drinking water for Kampala’s two million people, is literally “mining” water from filth.
This is because Murchison Bay, which is the mouth of Lake Victoria, receives sewage from the Nakivubo Channel. Kiwanuka Sonko, the manager at Ggaba Water Works, says the water treatment cost at Ggaba has gone up threefold over the last two decades with attendant costs on piped water price. Also nutrients in the lake feed the water hyacinth and many other weeds that have invaded the lake in recent years.
The algae is a threat to many aquatic animals in the lake because it cuts off the supply of oxygen. PHOTO/Maria Wamala
How well or badly you manage land in the catchment of the lake is seen from the water in the lake, according to Dr. Aryamanya Mugisha
DID YOU KNOW?
Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest fresh water in the world and acts as a reservoir for the Nile.
It covers 68,000 square kilometres and contains 500 species of fi sh and supports the largest inland fi sheries globally, with annual catches of 500,000 metric tonnes, according to the State of River Nile Basin, 2012.
The commercial catches are dominated by Nile perch, tilapia and silver fish.
More than 200 species of silver fi sh have become extinct due to predation by Nile Perch
Importance of Lake Victoria
Over 30 million people derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from Lake Victoria
The total revenue for the three East African countries from fish caught from Lake Victoria is $500m and $115m for Uganda alone, down from $143m in 2005
. Potential hydro-electric power production along the Nile in Uganda stands at 3,000MW. The potential production at Nalubaale and Kiira dams currently stand at 388MW and 250MW at Bujagali
. The lake is the primary water source for the cities around it namely Kampala, Kisumu in Kenya and Mwanza in Tanzania. Water transport is the cheapest form of transport.
The tourism potential on the lake could fetch up to $2b a year which potential largely remains untapped. The early kingdoms, including the Buganda Kingdom, have been established around the lake.
The lake, the wetlands and the forest cover are crucial for ecological balance and rain making which supports agriculture.
Do you have any views on how to save Lake Victoria? Do you know of any body or organisation or harmful human practices affecting the lake? Write to the Features Editor, P.O Box 9815, Kampala, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0312337000 or you can catch us on facebook @ www.facebook.com/ SaveLakeVictoriaCampaign, Twitter @LKVictoria and http://www.newvision.co.ug/section/53-471-save-lake-victoria.html