Human activities peg back Lake Bunyonyi

Car washing activities take place at Heisesero Landing Site on Lake Bunyonyi in Muko Sub-county, Rubanda District on Friday last week. PHOTO | ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • With activities such as car washing that leaves run-off water to go into the lake, conservationists say this will likely affect the ecosystem. They are demanding urgent solutions.  

With its crystal clear waters, lush green hills and small islands numbering 29, Lake Bunyonyi is a gem of unparalleled beauty. 

The second deepest lake in Africa formed nearly 18,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption, its idyllic settings are a magnet for tourists.

A fortnight ago, when Sunday Monitor visited, a seven-seater 4x4 safari land cruiser was getting a hand wash by Lake Bunyonyi’s shores. 

To the uninitiated eye,  car washes that have mushroomed at the lake’s shores and landing sites such as Hisesero look like harmless undertakings that usually keep energetic youth busy.  To environmentalists and conservationists in Kigezi Sub-region, not much so. 

Mr Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda, a local conservation non-governmental organisation, says the car washes that are now a common sight come with problems by the bucketload.

“This activity of polluting the water system at Heisesero is a real threat because the oils and grease from the motor vehicles are a danger to the biodiversity of important ecosystems of Lake Bunyonyi and the neighbouring wetlands such as Nyamuriro where people get water for domestic use,” Mr Byaruhanga said.

He added that this could negatively impact a tourism enterprise that includes bird watching, nature walks, swimming, canoeing, boat riding, zip lining, and scenery viewing, among others.

Consequently, Ms Evas Asiimwe, the Kabale District wetlands officer, told Sunday Monitor that they have resolved to invite all the investors around Lake Bunyonyi for dialogue.  

Top of the agenda will be a conversation around how to slam the brakes on pollution of Lake Bunyonyi.

“It is a serious concern,” she said, adding: “Pollution on Lake Bunyonyi is not only caused by car washing activities, but also poor sewerage disposal as some investors directly discharge human waste into the lake water.”

Ms Asiimwe further revealed that traders running operations in the weekly markets on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, especially at the Aharutinda market, dispose of all the plastic waste and garbage from the agricultural produce into the lake.  This in part owes to the fact they are not provided with garbage skips by the lower local governments that collect revenue from them.

“Other causes of pollution include the poor farming methods around Lake Bunyonyi that have led to siltation of the lake, an act that may reduce its depth,” Ms Asiimwe added.

Mr Steven Ampeire Kasyaba, the Rubanda District chairperson, said they have asked the district natural resources officer to assess the environmental effects of the washing bays around Lake Bunyonyi. The findings, he added, will inform future actions.

Ms Jane Amumpaire, the Rubanda District Natural Resources Officer, said  the effects of car washes at Heisesero include chemical runoffs that are harmful to aquatic life and water quality.

“Vehicle washing activities generate sediment and debris from car and lorry tyres such as dirt, oil, grease, and rubber particles. If not properly managed, these materials can be carried by runoff water into water bodies, causing water pollution and harming aquatic ecosystems,” she revealed. 

She further said: “The effects of car washing on water quality can vary depending on local regulations and environmental conditions. Some areas have strict rules in place to control car wash run-off water, while others may not in regions with fragile ecosystems or vulnerable water bodies.”

Ms Amumpaire urged that strict controls be put in place to protect water quality.

Last May, the Rubanda District Council passed bye-laws emphasising environmental protection, especially water resources from pollution. The department of natural resources is, per Ms Amumpaire, so underfunded that robustly enforcing the bye-laws is a towering challenge.