With a surface area of 68,800 sq km (26,600 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest fresh water lake and second largest fresh water lake in the world. During its geological history, Lake Victoria has gone through many changes ranging from its present shallow depression to when it was first formed. It has many global challenges which include land use and land degradation. These have been as a result of pressure produced by a fast growing population.
Lake Victoria which is a major reservoir and source of water for domestic, industrial, agriculture, hydropower production and commercial purposes for the riparian communities is also used for repository purposes for both treated and untreated wastes generated from various activities in the basin, some of which can alternatively be re-used. As a result of the above uses, it can be seen Lake Victoria has suffered from increasing pollution, expansion of development activities and population growth in the basin for the past thirty years.
The Lake Victoria basin has over 15 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), 10 Ramsar sites, 8 National parks, over 20 major forests and over 60 rivers draining into Lake Victoria. The importance of these cannot be more emphasized.
If Lake Victoria was to become extinct, probably no living thing would survive in the basin. The lake is of great importance. It is a major source of power and it supports over 35 million people. The question here is, is Lake Victoria a priority to us? Should we conserve it? It is our duty as conservationists to help the government answer these questions.
The public talk at the National Museum on 12th June 2014 hoped to answer some of these questions. Different presenters from different backgrounds were invited to highlight on the current status of Lake Victoria and its catchment.
The presentation was made by Dr Anthony Taabu, Program leader and senior research officer at National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFFRI).He gave us a background about the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP) mentioning that it is coordinated by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission Secretariat headquarters in Kisumu, Kenya. It is implemented by the five EAC Partner States of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda who all share Lake Victoria’s catchment area of 194,000 km2. In Uganda, the LVEMP II is implemented through four components and one of these is run by NaFFRI. Strengthening Institutional Capacity for managing shared water and fisheries resources. He added that LVEMP activities are regarded as instruments to achieve stress reduction in priority hotspots and lay a foundation for sustainable improvement in the environmental status and water quality within the basin.
Dr Taabu said that in the in-shore area 17% of the lake is affected but that the productive area is about 83%. In his conclusive remarks he said that when conservation work was starting, communication was not a major issue but today it is very important for achieving sucess.
Ms Emilly Arayo, the regional information and communication officer, LVEMP II Civil Society watch project was the discussant. She said that we have a chance to undo our mistakes and save lake Victoria adding that looking at the basin, we all know that the activities we do will affect the lake. This can be controlled by. Ms Emily also said that we need to start with small steps like planting trees, sensitizing people, finding alternative Income generating activities IGAs other than fishing and give the lake a break to regenerate and enforce the laws.
Community effort will eventually change the lake and the world at large. She mentioned that if we put our hands together, we can identify the problem and find the solution. She continued by saying that the natural systems can no longer support the lake because the population is growing daily.
Palm trees Vs natural forests. This was attributed to the fact that researchers fail to evaluate conservation in monetary terms.
Cage fishing has been encouraged and yet most of the threats are on the shores. Cage fishing was also referred to as “selling the lake”.
There was a Declaration to save Lake Victoria, what has been done so far?
Professor Banage noted that poverty, education and enforcement are some of the issues that should be considered in the save Lake Victoria campaign. He added that we need a synthetic ecological approach to this problem rather than chasing political issues.
Dr Arthur Mugisha cited “The assessment of wetlands in wakiso district” that was recently conducted but so far there hasn’t been any change. He asked the questions; who owns Lake Victoria? Who is responsible for making the decisions? He pointed out that the issue of follow up is very important but it is lacking. He gave an example of the overloaded lorries that carry sand from the wetlands, saying that these spoil the wetlands as well as the roads due to the heavy load. Dr Mugisha also mentioned that the major challenges are corruption and law enforcement.
He noted these public talks are organized to inform the decision makers in this country, who when called upon some of the times fail to make the correct choice. He added that “we need answers to some of these questions but what else can be done to inform and engage the policy makers and law enforcement?”
- Background - The plight of Lake Victoria by Michael Opige, NU
- The Plight of L.Victoria - Presentation by Dr Anthony Taabu, NaFFRI
- Discussion by Ms Emily Arayo Arineitwe, LVEMP II CS Watch Project