Mutai NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Mbita causeway that
provides a strategic linkage between communities living in
Rusinga Island in Western Kenya has stood out as an
architectural wonder for decades.
It was constructed in the early 1980s
to link Rusinga Island to the mainland and facilitate movement
of people, goods and services.
However, its construction was carried
out without adequate consultations with environmentalist and
marine experts who over the years have blamed it for the
dwindling stock of fish in the Winam Gulf located at the heart
of Lake Victoria.
A recent interview conducted by Xinhua
along the lake revealed that fish stock is fast increasing in
the Gulf since the removal of the causeway two months ago.
“The black water current is freely
flowing towards the gulf for the first time in many years,”
said Gideon Nyaidho, a fishery Assistant with the Department
of Fisheries in charge of East Karachuonyo.
He noted the water within the Gulf is
currently hot and lots of fish are migrating to the side to
hatch, a development that is new to the fisheries fraternity.
In the early 1990s, researchers at the
Lake Victoria Environment Management Program (LVEMP) and Kenya
Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) did a study
that found that the causeway has poor water quality, blockage of
fish migration and interference with breeding patterns.
Political leaders too blamed the
existence of the causeway to the miseries that the fisher folk
aced in carrying out their trade.
Overtime, scientists have piled
pressure on the government to remove the causeway, which they
claimed blocked the free flow of water across the lake,
resulting in the near-death of one side of Winam Gulf.
As the flow of water remained blocked,
the Gulf developed into a fertile breeding ground for the
dreaded invasive water hyacinth that has been choking a huge
swathe of Lake Victoria for two decades.
The government yielded to pressure and
a demolition exercise commenced in earnest four years ago and
has yielded a new fly-over bridge that allows water to pass
under it freely towards the Gulf.
Nyaidho noted that the Gulf has since
reclaimed its hatching ground prowess, a position it held since
the early 1950s going by the latest activities along the beaches
on the side of the lake.
“We have to intensify surveillance to
help protect the region from unscrupulous fishermen by
ensuring that only fishermen who are using recommended gears
fish in the area,” Nyaidho noted.
He told communities along the Gulf to
be on the look out to ensure that fishermen use the rightgears
and fish at specified period of time.
James Kingi, a fisherman along Siala
beach, confirmed that fishing activity has started improving by
the size of fish that are being caught.
Kingi who has been fishing for the
past 20 years said that the current development is indeed good
news to them as the fish on the Gulf side almost got finished
due to poor re-stocking from the southern side of the lake.
Fredrick Juma, a Fishery Assistant in
West Karachuonyo, observed that the riverine fish species were
eliminated as there was no access to the deep waters.
He added that as rivers empty their
contents, sometimes raw sewerage wastes from towns and
agricultural plantations, the water became shallow and toxic to
“The Causeway permanently blocked a
secondary connection between Rusinga Channel and the
offshore waters of Lake Victoria towards the gulf, hence
poor stocking of fish on the side,” he added.
An environmentalist with Friends of
Lake Victoria (OSIENALA), an environmental watchdog within the
lake, Peter Mireri, noted that the channel which is 250 meters
in length and over 10 meters in depth was blocked by the
causeway, hence reducing the lake’s cleansing capacity.
He said that fishing activity had
reduced on the side due to lack of flushing and exchange of
water between the two shores.
“I welcome the demolition and the
construction of the new bridge as a good gesture for the
fisherfolk and the ecosystem of the lake,” Mireri added.
Mireri revealed that despite
destroying fish breeding grounds, the Mbita channel also had
hampered shipping trade within the gulf.
According to Nyaidho, even though the
channel had been a stumbling block to the fishing industry in
the region, water hyacinth has equally caused headache to
But he said that the introduction of
beetles is immensely contributing to the demise of the weed
since the blanket-thick weed that has been eaten by the insects
are fast sinking, hence paving way for hippo grass that attracts
fish to grow with ease.
“The rotting hyacinth is creating some
black mud that is today home to mud fish and cat fish,
popular delicacies with the locals,” he added.
He however noted that daily catch of
tilapia and Nile perch has dropped drastically due to the high
demand of the two species.
“With the construction of the fly over
bridge and proper patrol of the lake, I can see fishing
activity booming once again as was the case in the 60s and
70s,” Nyaidho added.
The 200-meter bridge that links
Rusinga Island and Mbita mainland in Suba District Western
Kenya, commissioned two months ago, was built at a cost of about
10.5 million dollars.