Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme (LVEMP) Lake Victoria -A Sick Giant Needs Help
Iohn Speke would probably be shocked if he could see Lake Victoria today.
When the British researcher became the first European to reach the legendary source of the Nile in 1858, the lake was still a clear body of water home to many varieties of fish. Today, its slimy waters smell putrid and the lake is overgrown with algae and water plants.
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the countries bordering Lake Victoria, joined together in 1995 to improve the quality of the lake. They founded the Lake Victoria Environment Management Project (LVEMP).
At the turn of the 20th century, shortly after Speke’s “discovery”, colonial powers began exploiting Lake Victoria, which is the size of Ireland. The vegetation at home in the region was cut down to make way for the cultivation of tea, coffee and sugar. Rain and groundwater washed the fertilizers used on the plantations into the lake. These nutrients made it possible for algae and other water plants to grow at explosive rates. In addition, Lake Victoria’s fish population was also exploited. Together, these factors led to the lake’s becoming a sick giant.
The fish processing industry and other businesses settled near Lake Victoria. Their wastewater often flows directly into the lake without being purified. Even the gently rocking water hyacinths that carpet the lake pose a threat because high levels of nitrates and phosphates in the water cause them to spread so rapidly. They prevent sunlight from reaching the organisms beneath the surface, and they use up much of the limited oxygen in the lake.
In order to address these problems, the LVEMP set in motion a bundle of activities made possible by the financial support of the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA). According to Professor I. B. Ojiambo, project manager, “the majority of the funding is used to build purification plants, to establish testing stations and to fight the water hyacinths”.
Because they feed on the hyacinths, 2300 weevils are bred and released at different locations on the lake each month. More than 70 courses have been held toinform farrners about protecting soil and water. A 40-hectare area near the lake has been reforested with 150,000 young trees. To support future planning, data about the lake is being collected, including information about the composition of the plankton, the type and number of fish and the microscopic plant organisms that populate the lake. One long-term-goal is reducing pollution in the lake at least by half.