A number of Ugandans must be aware that our precious freshwater lake, which not only provides income through tourists who come to view the different beautiful spots that surround it, but also provides a way of life for fishermen, and motorboat owners and operators, among others, is no longer as clean as it should be. But what they may not be aware of, is how bad the situation is.
A series of stories by the Nation Media Group platforms, which started running and airing on Sunday, February 16, show that Lake Victoria is under siege from pollutants, effluents and a seemingly laissez faire attitude by the bodies charged with keeping the water body safe.
Part One of the series shows that the water, fish and soils within or near the lake have chemicals not safe for humans. While a few of the samples show traces of metals and chemicals below the permitted World Health Organisation levels, many show traces above the permitted levels.
A lot of this waste and pollution is coming from untreated sewage that fishermen and those who live close to the lake throw into it, as well as factories and facilities that discharge their effluent into the water body.
What is disturbing is that the organisations charged with the duty of checking, guiding and sanctioning those who pollute the waters, were by the time of this writing this, tight-lipped on the matter.
According to the story, ‘Scientists discover killer chemicals in Lake Victoria’ in yesterday’s Daily Monitor, officials from the Ministry of Water and Environment as well as National Environment Management Authority (Nema) refused to provide information or explain why Lake Victoria is in the state it is today, or what they are doing to address the situation.
Only the Ministry of Agriculture, Animals Industries and Fisheries gave an interview in which Ms Joyce Ikwaput, the assistant commissioner for fisheries, stated that they have carried out tests on the fish and the waters and found no risks. What the scientists that Nation Media Group worked with, who did the testing of the samples found out, cannot be ignored.
Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater body in the world. It feeds millions of East Africans with its water and fish. It is the source of the River Nile, which feeds other countries, including South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Therefore, it is in our interests to keep the lake water safe and usable for all people today as well as the next generation. The government should act very fast.