- January 13, 2021
- Posted by: Albert Muhumuza
- Category: news
Makerere University Centre for Environment Development Initiative (EfD-Mak Centre) has held yet another policy Dialogue on the changes in Lake Victoria’s Hydrology, Water quality and livelihoods.
The dialogue held at the Senate building on the 16th of December, 2020 was graced by the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences Prof. Eria Hisali and officiated by the Deputy Vice chancellor in charge of Finance Prof. Josephine Nabukenya.
Among the discussants of the topic were Dr. Sseruyange from Makerere University, Ms. Harriet Nankya the Wakiso District Environmental focal person, ACP Simon Peter Okoshi the Assistant Commissioner of Police also the Deputy Commandant of Environmental Protection Unit, Dr. Tom Bukenya the commissioner Fisheries Control Regulation and Quality Assurance Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and Dr. Edward Rukunya still from MAAIF.
While delivering her message, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Nabukenya applauded the director of the Centre Prof. Edward Bbaale for organizing such a wonderful function despite the challenging situation occasioned by covid-19.
She explained that water bodies as part of natural resources in our country are crucial sources of ecosystem service provision and are potential drivers of development through a multiplicity of economic activities.
“This can be highly achieved if research-based policies are put in place to manage these resources within appropriate boundaries.
Initiatives like this are essential in countries where a majority of people depend directly on soil, water, forests and fisheries for their livelihood, “she said.
She said that Makerere University appreciates the relevance of natural resources and the environment in fostering economic development.
However, she said that for the environment and natural resources to play this role, these kind of policy engagements are supposed to be at their best.
She cited some gaps that are likely to limit Ugandans from utilizing the environment and natural resources maximally and sustainably as being a human resource capacity gap, the knowledge gap, the communication gap and institutional gap.
“The great opportunity we have at hand is that these rhymes so well with the strategic agenda of the EfD initiative and we believe that having secured an EfD Centre at Makerere University, a lot of policy in the spheres of ENR will be enormous and thus leading to the achievement of the NDPIII and Vision 2040 as well as feeding into the global agenda, “she explained.
The Deputy VC applauded the EfD global hub for giving Makerere University to host a Centre that is fully concerned with academic research, institutional and individual capacity Development and Policy outreach in the realms of environment and natural resources.
She also appreciated the global hub at the school of Economics and law University of Gothenburg, Sweden and congratulated Makerere staff Prof. Edward Bbaale and Prof. Johnny Mugisha upon successfully securing the EfD Centre to the great Makerere University and Uganda at Large.
“We believe that through the commitment and dedication of our staff affiliated to this Centre, we are going to bridge the mentioned gaps and act as a hub for quality training, research and policy engagement in environment economics and development in the African region and beyond.
This is to be achieved through providing high quality policy relevant research, offering graduate training support, policy engagement and outreach in the realm of environment and development economics in order to enhance sound environmental management and natural resource utilization for sustainable development, “she explained.
According to Prof, Nabukenya, the Centre works with relevant government departments, the private sector, development partners, civil society and general community to drive research and policy action that are underpinned by issues regarding environment management and sustainable development.
“Our teaching, research, technical support and policy engagements targets the development of skills in the priority areas of Agriculture and sustainable development, climate change, fisheries and water bodies management, national parks and the wildlife and energy and policy design, “she re echoed.
The Director EfD- Mak Centre Prof. Edward Bbaale while making a presentation titled “Changes in Lake Victoria’s Hydrology, Water Quality and livelihoods” said Lake Victoria Basin (LVB) is a critical transboundary natural resource, underpinning the economy and livelihoods of the population within the wider catchment area, acting as a waste repository and providing, food, energy, irrigation, drinking water, tourism and transportation.
According to his presentation, the lake has a total area of 194,200 Km2 and is shared by Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
This covers a population of approximately 45 million lives in the basin, with roughly 80% of it reliant on rain-fed agriculture and livestock for its livelihood.
“More than 200,000 fishermen and their families depend on daily catches for their basic employment, and the fisheries industry is estimated to provide direct employment to more than 800,000 people.
The fisheries are estimated to contribute between 2 and 3% to the GDPs of the lake basin economies.
“Being the source of the White Nile, the lake also supports the livelihoods of Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan Moreover, it is the primary modulator of the region’s climate, “he explained.
He told the participants that despite its importance, the LVB has undergone intense environmental degradation for decades, resulting in significant ecological and economic challenges.
“From an ecological standpoint, Lake Victoria has experienced profound ecological degradation which is evident in the probable extinction of several species of endemic fishes
Apart from the significant impact of land use on freshwater biodiversity, an average loss of 10.8% in species richness has recently been reported,” he reported.
He added, “Rapid population growth, agricultural expansion, urbanization, and industrialization have mounted extreme pressure on the lake and its basin’s ecosystems, and have led to the degradation of lands, and the loss of wetlands and forests”.
He explained that, During the period of late January 2020, looming fears of Lake Victoria bursting its banks started to be felt among different Lake Victoria shore dwellers all around the basin.
“Within the few following weeks, several landing sites and settlements had already been damaged. By May, 2020 almost half a million people had been left homeless and property worth billions of moneys had been lost in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania due to floods, “he stated.
The commissioner of police in charge of environment ACP Simon Peter Okothi said as much as police has done a lot to sensitize about the impacts of protecting the lake, people don’t listen.
“We were advised to always first carry out sensitization before taking any action but the wanaichi are taking advantage of our number since we are very few and cannot be anywhere so that ignore us, sand miners are everywhere yet it was stopped,
Help the government, to help you, you have to be passionate, we shall continue talking and once it fails, we shall just hand cuff and take to court. We need the community leaders because environment police alone cannot handle but the community leaders can help us, “he lamented.
One of the participants from Mukono observed the need to have issues of environment be taught right from lower primary schools so that the children grow knowing the environment is very important in driving economic growth and development.
“The promotion of green industries needs to be emphasized in our countries and we need a policy on modeling of environmental issues, “she said.
Christine Mbatuusa, another participant called for promotion of a green environment through green initiative, “we need to make business out of waste and also promote fish farming on the lake, “she said.
Dr. Tom Bukenya the commissioner of Fisheries Control Regulation and Quality Assurance Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF called for regulating people in the fisheries industry.
He observed that fish catch is now experiencing a downward trend but people are still misidentifying the problem.
He expressed hope that currently the stocks are regenerating meaning a lot of jobs will be created for the people of Uganda Facts about the incidents.
From August 2019 to June 2020, Lake Victoria basin experienced an intensive and prolonged rainfall season caused by the Indian Ocean Dipole (Indian Nino) attributed to climate change.
This caused a rise in water levels of major water bodies and floods in various parts within the basin. Lake Victoria has a catchment size of 169,858 km2 fed with 23 major rivers from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda which are also accompanied with small rivers, drainage channels, runoff, direct rainfall and ground water flow all into the lake.
Lack of Regional Consensus on a Well-coordinated Policy of regulating Lake Victoria inflow and outflow.
Approximately 23 major rivers, several minor rivers, drainage channels and a large catchment area, Lake Victoria main outlet is at Nalubaale dam in Jinja Uganda.
According to the East African Council of Ministers in May 2020, Uganda has been violating Regional Treaties of maintaining natural outflow volumes and refused to implement a Policy ordered in 2012 by EAC member states.
Whenever more water is needed to meet growing power demands, Eskom Uganda allows more water to flow out of Lake Victoria.
Whenever rain falls heavily, Nalubaale has sufficient water, hence little water released in comparison to the lake inflow and as a result, lake water levels rise.
Uganda insists that the policy is impractical to be implemented and needs review since it only considered a release policy other than putting into consideration abstraction from the catchment.
Release of too much water can cause decrease in Lake Victoria water levels and cause floods downstream, while releasing could lead to floods along Lake Victoria shores.
However, at the same time, Kenya is planning damming some of its rivers to regulate on the water inflow into Lake Victoria as well as preventing backflow as a flood mitigation strategy.
Lack of coordinated activities of regulating water into and out of the lake possess a threat to the future of the Lake water balance.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND WAY FORWARD
Humanity forgives and forgets, however Mother Nature does neither. It’s therefore upon us to adjust to her ways before she strikes hard revenging against the atrocities committed against her.
Therefore, 21st century measures are needed with immediate effect in order to stop and reverse ecosystem damage for sustainable management of the cherished lake, its resources and livelihoods at large.
In summary, Environmental action for Lake Victoria and basin recovery and conservation should focus on mainly the 5 UN SDGs
We should aim at protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests and wetlands. It’s because the ecosystem is interconnected, effects on land also affect water resources directly or indirectly.
Compiled by the CAES Communication Team