Activists rattled by silting of crater lakes
What you need to know:
- The said crater lakes in Rubirizi District have for a long time been a source of water, commercial production, fishing, tourist attractions, hotel investment, and other human activities such as farming. But human induced pressure is driving them into destruction.
Environmental activists and residents in Rubirizi District are concerned that the crater lakes that have been of great economic and social value are being encroached on by humans. The lakes include Kamweru, Nyungu, Mirambi and Katinda.
The concerned said they have over time observed an increase in water levels as a result of soil eroding into the lakes due to induced siltation.
Mr David Birungi, a resident of Magambo Sub-county, who lives and operates a hotel on the shores of Lake Kamweru, one of the twin lakes, on Wednesday said the lake has been undergoing silting for the last five years.
“This lake has had its catchment area, which is Njuguto Wetland, degraded. This has reduced the amount of water flowing in,” Mr Birungi said.
Mr Birungi also blamed the government for failing to apply the law to protect Lake Kamweru and other crater lakes.
“There has been a lot of negligence on the government’s side. The government is not interested in protecting these resources. In some areas, I see people charging gate fees on visitors, but I wonder where this money goes if it can’t be used to protect the lakes,” he said.
The said crater lakes in Rubirizi District have for a long time been a source of water, commercial production, fishing, tourist attractions, hotel investment, and other human activities such as farming. But human induced pressure is driving them into destruction.
The district senior environment officer, Mr Aggrey Agaba, said the district is endowed with 32 crater lakes and 20 craters (depressions without water), rivers and smaller water streams, all served by a rich wetland system.
But the district tourism officer, Mr Deo Muhumuza, who has been at the helm of protecting Lake Kamweru catchment areas against degradation, said communities have dug up the shores of almost all lakes in the district and this has posed a big threat to the natural treasures.
“The level of siltation on these lakes is something to worry about. People have uncontrollably extended gardens around the lakes. The most affected is Lake Nyungu, where people first saw water rising and swallowing their gardens, but they never understood yet this was because too much soil was being heaped under, causing water levels to rise,” he said.
He added that efforts to restore catchment areas for the lakes have hit a dead end due to lack of compliance from communities and failure by the government to enforce the law.
“Our work in protecting these treasures has met resistance from some community members and these are ‘connected’ individuals who threaten us with court actions and reach an extent of being labelled enemies. This has far-reaching consequences including threats on life,” Mr Muhumuza told Daily Monitor.
He advised that the existing environmental and wetland protection laws should be enforced to arrest the situation.
Rubirizi District has, in the past, made some attempts to save Lake Kamweru and catchment areas from degradation.
The programme has, however, met challenges of inadequate resources, according to Mr Muhumuza.
European Union gave Shs200 million for the restoration programme that started in 2021.
However, the programme ending this year in March aims to reduce overdependence on Lake Kamweru.