18 February 2018

Ethiopia: Emboch On Lake Abaya Prompts Formation of New Committee

A new steering committee will oversee and control the spread of water hyacinth weed, locally known as Emboch, on Lake Abaya, in Southern Nations, Nationalities & People's Region (SNNPR).

First seen a year ago, the water hyacinth, one of the world's worst aquatic weeds which infest rivers, dams, lakes and irrigation channels devastating marine environments, covers 324ha of the Lake which is located in the central Ethiopian rift valley, east of the Guge Mountains.

Extending over the wetlands in two kebeles, Emboch covered 187ha of the waterbody in Qorga and 134ha in Albe kebeles.

"The alarming rate of expansion of the weed prompted the formation of the committee," said Yetnebersh Yitayew, public relations director of the Rift Valley Lakes Basin Authority, one of the three Authorities formed to conserve the water bodies along with Abbay Basin Authority and Awash Basin Authority.

The Committee comprises of experts from the region's Water, Irrigation & Energy Bureau, zonal, wereda and Regional Environmental Protection authorities.

First reported in Qoqa and Awash Lakes 50 years ago, the weed covers 800ha of Lake Qoqa and 80ha of Yoboye River in Oromia Regional State. The weed coverage also spread to Lake Tana, the major tributary of the Blue Nile, contributing for 60pc of the water with 20ha coverage five years ago but spiked to 5,396ha by September 30, 2017.

This time, it is threatening Lake Abaya which supplies 412tns of fish each year. The Lake is 60Kms long and 20Kms wide with a surface area of 1,162sqkm. It has islands including Gidicho, Welege, Galmaka and Alkali.

As a first move, the Committee is planning to use two options to remove the weed. Removing the weed, which covers the side of the lake, by hand and using boats to remove it from the centre of the Lake, according to Gambura Ganta, team leader at Gamo Gofa zone Environment Protection, Biodiversity Development & Protection Directorate.

Lake Abaya is one of the country's 12 river basins with an annual runoff volume of 122 billion cubic metres. These water bodies have an estimated 6.5 billion cubic metres of groundwater potential with an average of 1,575 cubic metres of water available per capita.

Nevertheless, due to significant spatial and temporal variations in rainfall and lack of proper storage, water is often not available when it is needed. Only about three percent of water resources are used, of which roughly 11pc goes for domestic water supply.

Recognising the drop in the Lake's water volume due to various reasons including the weed, the Committee is working to study the geographic information system (GIS) to capture and analyse geographical data to better understand the effect and damage extent of Emboch, stated Gambura.

Just two weeks ago, a new machine was donated to the Amhara Regional State by Amaga Plc, manufacturer and supplier of foam products, to mow the weed from Lake Tana. The machine has a capacity of chopping and grinding 5,000sqm of the weed an hour.


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