9 January 2016

Tanzania: Pollution, Low Water Levels Threaten Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika, Africa's deepest lake, is facing a high risk of pollution and significant decrease in water levels as authorities call for urgent action to save its ecosystem.

The lake, shared by four countries - Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia -- is a source of food, drinking water, transport and many other amenities to millions of people who live around the lake basin and beyond.

However, the lake has been affected by the industrial pollution that has been given little or no attention.

"The Burundi institute in charge of treatment of waste water is facing a serious technical problem, currently the pump that is to pump waste water from the industries to the treatment station before being released to the lake sometimes doesn't function forcing the water from the industries to go directly to the lake before being detoxicated," said Emmanuel Ndorimana, the general director, water and sanitation, in Burundi's Ministry of Environment.

One of the many factories surrounding Lake Tanganyika is the African Tannery.

The director-general, Bede Bedetse, however said that the company is under the government Setemu institution, responsible for treating waste water before it is released into the lake.

"The problem is the Setemu pump that doesn't function, so when we release the waste water it diverts straight to the lake before being detoxicated," said Mr Bedetse.Residents around the lake complained about the unprotected trench which produces an unpleasant smell all day.

"We raise the issue with the local administrators during the local meetings but nothing is done," said a resident.

Bucumi Masumbuko, a fisherman, said: "There is scarcity of fish in the lake two years ago we used to get three 20-litre basins full of fish but now we only get one and sometimes half a basin," he said.

However, the government of Burundi introduced a law that protects water bodies and allows the construction of private buildings only beyond 150 metres away from the lake. "The space of 150 metres is used for the plantation of trees, but only those who got special authorisation can build near the lake," said Mr Ndorimana.

Tanzania

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