Save Lake Victoria before it’s too late

Tuesday May 12 2020

Traders have been displaced by the rising Lake Victoria water levels and the residents are now afraid of a possible outbreak of Cholera since they are already constrained by inadequate sanitation facilities. Photo by Stephen Otage

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake by surface area in the world. It harbours immense natural
resources, including fisheries, forests and wetlands and is a major source of livelihoods to more than 40 million
people in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
The lake is also a home to about 400 species of fish.
With a rising population around the lake, new hurdles have emerged and require urgent intervention by policy
makers, conservationists and other stakeholders to rescue this lake. Polluted water mostly from industrial dis-
charge, car repair garages, workshops, markets, domestic waste, agrochemicals from flower export farms around

the lake and other pollutants continue to end up in the lake, resulting in massive pollution and silting.

Human activities on the shores of the lake continue to impact on the ecosystem through intense agricultural activities such as cultivation, livestock farming and overfishing, the consequence has been deforestation, loss of animal and plant life and other
aquatic life. This is exacerbated by the problem of water hyacinth that continues to choke the lake in addition
to large volumes of algae that have formed mainly on the lake shores that look like a green paint on lake surface.
Sand mining in the districts of Kalungu (Lwera), Mpigi and Wakiso has gained prominence as a lucrative economic activity but is one of the ecological cancers for the lake.
Recent research by University of Southern Texas and Makerere University, as well as other reports indicate that the lake has been significantly degraded by pollution and encroachment and that if the trend is not checked, the repercussions may be disastrous.

Information from various researchers also indicates that we are already experiencing the impacts of degradation in different ways. For example, water levels continue to rise submerging prominent hotels, beaches and some of the suburbs of Munyonyo, Ggaba and Entebbe areas.
Current flooding is partly because of destruction of wetlands that used to act like a sponge to hold water for long,
filter it, and release it slowly into the lake in a more purified form.
Loss of tourism as the several beaches are being swept away and beach sporting activities postponed, global warming are some of the threats that can’t be ignored.
These are some of the indicators of a looming crisis that call for urgent attention to address. We need to restore
wetlands, as they play an important role as watershed areas and breeding grounds for fish as well as filtering the
city waste. Increasing water levels that continue to erode shore lines, displace settlements, cause flooding and eco-
nomic damage call for environmental protection laws to be enforced to protect against encroachment.

Whereas it’s every one’s responsibility to maintain a healthy environment, it’s important that the National

Environment Authority, Lake Victoria Basin Commission and other responsible agencies intensify awareness and


enforcement to save lives and property from the swelling waters of Lake Victoria, otherwise when strict enforce-
ment is left to the lake itself to chase away the encroachers, there is a risk of humanitarian crisis around the lake. .
Robert Tumwijukye,