By Robert Manyara KISUMU (Xinhua) --
Capturing fish from Lake Victoria in Western Kenya has been Okoth
Odhiambo’s commercial activity for the past three decades but latest
development of fast spreading water hyacinth on the productive
waters is slowly taking away his livelihood.
“It is impossible to fish in waters where it has fully grown. It’s
bad news. Just terrible,” Odhiambo told Xinhua.
Odhiambo is among thousands of the lake-side locals in the Western
Kenya staring a threat to their social and economic well-being as
fishing is the main source of income which caters for the
educational, energy, health and additional food needs.
For more than ten years, the water hyacinth, a green weed-like
plant, has been thriving on the Lake Victoria waters in the counties
of Kisumu, Siaya and Homabay.
“Urgent measures need to be implemented to remove this water
hyacinth. It is going to swallow the lake and we will not have
anywhere else to fish,” he said.
Odhiambo is convinced that pollution of the waters with solid and
fluid waste is the most contributing factor to the emergence and
thriving of the invasive aquatic plant.
Lake Victoria is a crucial development resource in the Kenyan
economy predominantly supporting the country’s fisheries sector.
Fishermen are crucial to the country’s fisheries and aquaculture
sector directly influencing the nation’s gross economic performance.
For instance, available data from Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) indicate that yields from Lake Victoria constituted 90 percent
of the total fishery and aquaculture production in 2013.
But for the fishermen the future of the lake shared with their
fellows from Tanzania and Uganda is uncertain.
Okuku Ndiege, chairperson of Beach Management Unit in Siaya County
said communities around the lake basin are facing an unpredictable
future should the aquatic plant which has invaded many of the
beaches in the region continues to flourish.
“The first time I saw the water hyacinth in the lake was 1997 and
for over the ten years it has caused too much suffering to the
people in this region. It invaded and has refused to go,” said
Ndiege who believes the water hyacinth spread from Uganda.
“We are suffering because we cannot fish in the beaches where it is
a major infestation. Cows cannot get fresh water from the lake. The
community can’t get clean water from the lake. The water covered
with the hyacinth smells so bad because it’s stagnant and
deoxygenated,” he said.
He emphasized the need to executive workable solutions to save the
livelihoods of the fishermen.
The respective county governments where the aquatic plant is
predominantly infesting the waters should collaborate with the
national government in financing its manual removal, he said.
“The county governments cannot manage it on their own because it is
a huge menace. Only if they can partner with the national
government. We need to get money and mobilize youth to remove it
manually in all the beaches in Homabay, Kisumu and Siaya counties,”
While this largest lake in the East African region remains a major
economic resource for millions of people in the three counties,
enforcing multisectoral cross-boundary strategies would restore its
purity minimizing introduction of harmful elements such as the
invasive plant according to environmental experts.
Antony Saisi, National Environmental Management Authority(NEMA)
director in Kisumu County, said implementing integrated
multisectoral approaches involving communities living along the
lake, countries hosting it and those with investments in the nearby
would lead to a reduced pollution of the waters.
Lake Victoria constitutes of 75 percent of rainwater which carries
along nitrates and phosphates, the nutrients encouraging growth of
the water hyacinth, said the environmental expert.
“For a long time there has been pollution of the lake from
agricultural activities upstream. There are more chemicals from
fertilizer used ending up in the lake,” he said.
Also, due to lack of treatment facilities, sewerage from factories
has had its way into the lake, he said.
“This has increased nitrates and phosphates in the lake creating a
conducive environment for water hyacinth to grow,” he added.
The hyacinth can remain under the water for nearly 40 years before
it can sprout which necessities continuous undertaking of research
to develop solutions to counteract its dynamics, he said.
Although manual removal of the hyacinth is a possible solution,
Saisi noted importance of adopting mitigation measures to curb flow
of excessive phosphates and nitrates into the lake.
Treatment plants and sewerage infrastructure must be set up and
maintained within required standards to eliminate any disposal of
harmful effluent into the lake.
“We must improve on solid waste management, farming and soil
conservation to reduce pollution of the lake with phosphates and
nitrates,” he said.