5 December 2005

Uganda: Deforestation Lowering Water Levels

Kampala — THE massive destruction of forests in Western Kenya is the main cause of reduced water levels on Lake Victoria, experts attending the recently concluded 11th World Lakes Conference in Nairobi said.

Addressing participants, Edward Mulama of the environmental information network said the lake had greatly been degraded as a result of the destruction of Western Kenya forests either for burning charcoal or harvesting crops through deforestation.

"The situation had worsened since this had reduced the lake's water levels, thus destroying fish stocks," he said.

As a result of the low levels on the lake, Mulama said fish had become scarce, depriving people of their livelihood from fish sales.

Another expert said Lake Victoria used to produce over 500,000 tonnes of fish every year, but the demand had increased by a similar number owing to heavy demand for fish.

The biannual conference, which was opened by Kenya's Vice-President Moody Awori, brought together more than 200 delegates from all over the world.

The delegates shared experiences in addressing the benefits of the great lakes to the human society as a catalyst for peace and poverty reduction.

The conference's theme was Management of Lake Basins for their Sustainable Use - Global Experiences and African Issues.

"Proper management of water resources requires strategic partnership and participation by all partners so as to realise concrete solutions," said Mr. Collins Bruce, the World Bank Country Director.

Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai called on all delegates to consider practical conservation of natural ecosystems, which are a source of livelihood to man.

Kenya's Assistant Minister of Environment and Natural Resources said, "We need to reduce, re-use and recycle water resources so as to ensure longetivity of the ecosystems."

The conference pointed out several challenges to be tackled, and these included deforestation of water catchment areas, the rapidly increasing water hyacinth and the conflicts that have plagued regional cooperation.

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