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Who is responsible for the death of Lake Kyoga?

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th February 2011 03:00 AM

I would like to thank Gerald Tenywa for bringing up the issue of Lake Kyoga, especially by highlighting the Egyptian factor in altering the natural flows of Lake Kyoga.

I would like to thank Gerald Tenywa for bringing up the issue of Lake Kyoga, especially by highlighting the Egyptian factor in altering the natural flows of Lake Kyoga.

By Henry Bazira

I would like to thank Gerald Tenywa for bringing up the issue of Lake Kyoga, especially by highlighting the Egyptian factor in altering the natural flows of Lake Kyoga.

As I was reading the article, I waited patiently to see whether or not the role of the Egyptians would come up and I am glad it did from the least expected source, a member of the community.

For those who may not understand the Egyptian factor, sometime back the Egyptian government gave a substantial amount of money to the Ugandan Government in the name of “controlling the water hyacinth weed in Lake Kyoga”.

The programme involved clearing of the weed from the lake. But as a consequence, other naturally existing plants e.g. papyrus, water lilies, etc and floating bodies e.g. suds that controlled the flow of water through the lake, were also removed. This changed the natural flow of water in and out of the lake and also exposed the water surface to increased evaporation.

Although other factors, such as climate change, silting from the surrounding catchments due to increased farming activities, deforestation and forest degradation may now also be contributing to the receding of the lake, the major contributor to the drying of Lake Kyoga is the relentless disturbance of its sanctity by a programme that was ill-conceived. It was not based on an Environmental Impact Assessment and did not have any mitigation measures for such negative outcomes. The case of Kyoga is in fact an example of the negative impacts of poorly conceived and politically rushed projects.

One now needs to ask the following questions: What was the real intention of Egypt giving Uganda money to clear the weed from Lake Kyoga, River Nile and Lake Victoria and not any other water bodies in Uganda? Was it because they loved us so much or was it because they wanted to allow for more flow of water to Egypt?

Such questions may not be readily answered, but one thing is clear “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.

In the world we live in, where people invest little for more, and knowing that the Nile flows to Egypt, we can only guess the real intentions of Egypt’s investment in Uganda.

I am not surprised at the contradicting statements made by government officials in respect to the cause of the decline of Lake Kyoga. If indeed, Fred Wanda, the Aquatic Weed Specialist in the agriculture ministry, was quoted right, I do not understand his statement: “There is no way you can damage the lake.” While it is true that sometimes dredging a water body may be necessary, it is not true that not having a dredging programme is the cause for the disappearing of lakes. Many water bodies in Uganda have existed for a long time in their natural state without the need for dredging. Lake Kyoga, like many other water bodies in Uganda, is just a case of an abused lake.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) boss, Dr Henry Aryamanya Mugisha, shocks me by his assertion that the Egyptian intervention on Lake Kyoga proceeded without clearance from NEMA when he had the mandate to halt the project.

How many other such projects have been implemented in Uganda without clearance from NEMA? How come NEMA allowed such a project to go ahead without intervention? Who prevented or curtailed NEMA’s intervention? How come we are disorganised, when we have all these government institutions in place mandated to ensure that things go right? Who is responsible for the disorganisation that Aryamanya is referring to and how can we, as a country, get out of the disorganisation?

The writer is the executive director of the Water Governance Institute


Who is responsible for the death of Lake Kyoga?

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