Efforts are underway to address challenges affecting Lake Victoria with a basin spanning an area of 19,400 square kilometres, which is home to approximately 35 million people, according to a report published in a quarterly magazine of the Kenyan Ministry of East African Community.
The challenges include rapid population growth and accompanying over exploitation of resources; land degradation; loss of habitats and biodiversity; as well as increased water pollution, to mention but a few.
“These challenges are aggravated by poverty among the basin’s population and the global phenomenon of climate change,” says the two-page report, adding that other factors include lack of uniform policies within the basin to manage the entire basin.
Despite its strategic importance in the East African region, the lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 40 metres, making it delicate in terms of the impact of pollution, especially point sources from sewerage plants and industrial effluents.
The report says that the problem was compounded by increased land degradation and accompanying high erosion within the basin. “This has seen high sediment accumulation within the lake bed which has in turn further reduced the volume of water held by the lake.
Existing data shows that the lake’s water balance at precipitation is the main source of water into the lake accounting for 82 % while the remaining 18 % come in through rivers,” says the report. Evaporation accounts for 76 per cent of the loss of water from the lake while the remaining 24 per cent being lost through River Nile outflow.
Again, with the prevailing trend of global warming and erratic weather patterns, the lake’s existence is increasingly under severe threat.
The report says that given the various types of potentially competing uses, sustainable management of the lake’s water resources as well as other water bodies within the basin pose a challenging task, adding that management of the basin’s resources is further complicated by the fact that it spans several states and hence national laws and institutions are not effective in the sustainable management of the entire basin resources.
Nearly a quarter of EAC inhabitants’ sustainable livelihoods are largely dependent on the resources within the basin of the lake in which three EAC member states could be defined as riparian to the lake as part of their boundaries directly touch the water body.
Boasting of a surface area of about 68,870 square kilometres, Lake Victoria is designated as Africa’s largest and the world’s second largest freshwater lake. It therefore remains a major source of water and fisheries in the region. Its biodiversity as an ecosystem provides a wide range of species of aquatic life, plant and forest cover.