Local communities key to saving Lake Victoria

Friday April 15 2022
Fishing on Lake Victoria.

A man fishes amid water hyacinth on Lake Victoria. PHOTO | FILE


Industrial polluters may have been the biggest culprits in the slow death of life in Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater body. But to save it, a World Bank study says, we should look to nearby fishing and farming communities.

The report by the World Bank Water Global Practice says countries in the region should separately address each key driver of pollution on the lake. These include poor land management and agricultural practices that have seen communities attack protected wetlands.

Others are the discharge of untreated wastewater from urban areas into the lake and rivers upstream, and the discharge of untreated effluent from industries.

The World Bank notes that these practices encourage growth of invasive plant species such as water hyacinth, which obstruct navigation and power generation, increase turbidity and deplete oxygen, fish stocks and biodiversity.

The pollution also leads to an increase in the cost of treating water for domestic use and exposure to water-borne pathogens.

Climate change


Shared by Tanzania (51 percent), Uganda (43 percent) and Kenya (six percent), Lake Victoria is the largest inland fishery in the world and supports over 40 million inhabitants, nearly 50 percent of whom live on less than $1.25/day. Its basin spreads over to Rwanda and Burundi.

But official estimates warn that millions of Lake Basin residents will be displaced by climate change by 2050, leading to greater competition for lake resources and threatening livelihoods, food security, and adaptive capacity.

“Vulnerable communities who are really struggling –women, youth, and the disabled – all face different challenges. Water is one of the important things they depend on. It is important to look at water as a catalyst for employment,” Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Uganda’s Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation, Ministry of Water and Environment said on Monday.

The World Bank Water Global Practice, with financial support from the Korea Green Growth Trust Fund, is working with the Lake Victoria Basin countries to address the discharge of untreated human waste.

The engagement will focus on developing a regional strategy for providing inclusive sanitation services in cities and towns that release untreated human waste into the lake.