The Island has many tribes and some of them do not believe in using latrines.
By George Bita
Untill June 5, in a campaign, Save Lake Victoria, Vision Group media platforms is running articles, programmes highlighting the irresponsible human activities threatening the world’s second largest fresh water lake. Today, we take you through life at Buvuma Island.
At Kiyindi landing site in Buikwe district, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) ferry rests on the Lake Victoria waters awaiting travellers to register for the one-hour voyage to Buvuma district.
Travellers to the 52 Lake Victoria islands that make up Buvuma district often access the place from here. For those who travel to the islands occasionally, it is worthwhile to have one last chance to empty one’s bowels in a decent latrine as such facilities are nonexistent on the islands.
As the wait continues for the ferry to leave, one traveller after another rushes to the lakeside latrines run by UNRA to ease themselves.
In Buvuma, the lack of latrines dawns on, especially first-time visitors. Buvuma islands population is 583,600 as per the 2010 population census
Human settlements are evident in all the direction one looks, but the accompanying places of convenience are scarce with locals resorting to excreting in the lake, except for the recently constructed four-stance pit latrines at both the district headquarters and hospital complex.
Alfred Okumu, the LC1 chief of Kasale A in Nairambi sub-county, explains that the rocky soil surface has made construction of pit-latrines difficult.
“It is very hard and expensive to cut through the hard rock to set up a latrine here. Actually what most residents do is to either defecate in the lake or go up in the hills and do it from there,” Okumu reveals.
He adds that fishermen simply release their body waste products into the lake waters.
Abubaker Funa of Kirongo village, Busamizi sub-county attributes the use of waterside bushes to cultural beliefs among some of the residents.
“You see these islands are composed of different tribes and some of whom do not believe in using latrines. A section of locals argue that dropping faeces in latrines tantamount to throwing away one’s unborn children,” Funa says.
He says even the faeces deposited on top of the hills is washed down into the lake when it rains.
“The argument is that when you defecate up in the hills, the smell would remain up there and not inconvenience the entire village. However, it is common for others to step on other people’s excreta as they rush up to help themselves causing a health concern,” he says.
A man transports charcoal to the selling points in Buvuma Island
Nathan Mununuzi, a water and environment ministry official explains that depositing of human waste in water bodies causes eutrophication that leads to killing of aquatic organisms.
The increased boost in nitrates or nutrients from such wastes leads to increase in numbers of algae, referred to as algal bloom, giving the water a green colour.
Such a situation implies much of the oxygen dissolved in waterwould be taken up by the plants and as a result fish suffocates and die in large numbers,” Mununuzi says.
He said this explains why water on some Lake Victoria shorelines has a green colour and less fish. He added that addition of foreign chemicals, including pesticides and soap from washing clothes, can affect the delicate chemical-balance in the lake.
Residents along the shoreline wash their clothes, which is then dried on trees or old boats by the waterside.
The main economic activity on Buvuma island is charcoal burning, which means massive cutting of tress.
Adrian Ddungu, the LC5 boss says there are many campaigns to encourage residents save the forests instead of destroying them.
“As council we have a bylaw to ensure that each sack of charcoal that leaves the islands fetches a local tax of sh10, 000. This was reached at to force the people change to other economic activities so as to check on soil degradation,” Ddungu says.
Mununuzi says soil erosion also adds nutrients to the water, which causes death of fish in the lake.
“A change to environmentally-friendly activities is the only way to stop Buvuma residents from destroying the lake,” he says.
Ddungu says some NGOs had expressed interest in setting up Ecosan latrines, and they do not require digging into the rocky surface.
“It would be the best way to avoid dumping faeces into the lake. The Ventilated Improved Pitlatrines (VIP) if filled up, provides manure to rejuvenate our soils,” he says.
IT'S YOUR TURN
How you can save the lake
Did you know that using ecological sanitation toilets could reduce contamination of water? Over 80% of the water supplies to Kampala return to Lake Victoria in a polluted state-sewage. The ecological sanitation toilets separate faeces and urine, which can be used as organic manure and pesticide in urban farming.
One latrine for thousands in Buvuma