Kenya: Save Lake Victoria From Looming Death

Water testing at the source of River Nile on Lake Victoria in Jinja, Uganda (file photo).
17 February 2020
editorial

Lake Victoria, Africa's largest fresh water mass, is imperilled.

Human and industrial activities have turned it into a veritable health hazard. Encroachment, siltation, effluent emissions and illegal fishing have all combined to ruin the lake and, for that matter, put millions of people at risk.

Lake Victoria is shared by three East African countries -- Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania -- but its waters serve millions others upstream all the way to Egypt.

Cairo secured a century-old treaty that obliges East Africa to observe Egypt's territorial rights over the waters of the Nile that outflows from Lake Victoria. But all that is in jeopardy as the lake faces extinction.

Starting today, the Nation presents a series of comprehensively investigated articles and graphics that detail the hazard that is Lake Victoria.

This is a sequel to a similar investigation carried out on Nairobi River last year that exposed the toxicity of one of the major rivers that empty its waters in the Indian Ocean.

ALL AT RISK

Our investigations reveal that water from Lake Victoria is heavily polluted. It is flowing poison consumed in doses by thousands of unsuspecting individuals.

The investigations -- complete with laboratory tests, a cruise through the lake at various intersections in Kenya and Uganda, as well as interviews with experts across the East African region -- are revealing.

Communities living around the lake are faced with serious environmental challenges they may, or may not, fathom.

The waters are unfit for human consumption due to massive pollution. Fish from the lake are poisoned, and therein lies a double tragedy.

Not only is the fish consumed within the lake's environs but also exported farther ashore. Put simply, everybody is at risk.

The water hyacinth on Lake Victoria is all a consequence of pollution. As such, those tactical interventions to rid the lake of that weed cannot succeed because of deep underlying causes.

POLITICAL WILL

What obtains around the lake is sheer criminal activities by individuals, organisations and businesses.

Law enforcement authorities are decidedly impotent, capriciously ignoring environmental blunders right under their nose.

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) and county governments (Kisumu, Siaya, Busia, Migori and Homa Bay) are acutely aware of the tragedy within their jurisdictions but have failed to act.

Political will is lacking as big businesses rule the roost.

Based on the investigations, it is deeply troubling that some of the sources of effluents are major manufacturing plants around the lake and which, in their own establishments, have stringent environmental protection policies and are naturally expected to coexist with others through proper ecological management practices.

Not only do they breach own rules but have singularly failed even to change practices after protests from the authorities.

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