Rwanda to deal with water weed threat

Over Rwf105m has been earmarked to deal with the emerging threat of water hyacinth which is reportedly increasing by the day in regional water bodies.
 TO TACKLE THE WEED: Stanislas Kamanzi
TO TACKLE THE WEED: Stanislas Kamanzi

Over Rwf105m has been earmarked to deal with the emerging threat of water hyacinth which is reportedly increasing by the day in regional water bodies.

The destructive weed which in the 1990’s threatened to destroy Lake Victoria and all its tributaries is again said to be on the increase, and Lake Tanganyika is said to be the major source of the free-floating weed, feeding into river tributaries in Burundi, eventually pouring into River Akagera and Lake Victoria.

“We are aware of the threat, it has been around for sometime but we have mechanisms in place to harvest it. We had cases of the weed increasing on lakes like Muhazi but we have worked with district authorities to tackle the weed and now the lake is clean,” said Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Stanislas Kamanzi.

Significant amounts of the fast-multiplying aquatic weed have also been sighted on Lakes Mihindi, Sake, Nasho, Ihema and Mugesera, all in the Eastern Province, which are all linked to River Akagera or its tributaries. 

Experts also say that tourism in Akagera Park could be affected greatly if the water hyacinth is not checked.

The weed could multiply quickly in the coming months with assistance from the comming rains which would increase the flow of water.

Ugandan authorities say over 1,000 tonnes of the weed flow into Lake Victoria daily through River Akagera.

The hyacinth is believed to originate from Burundi and enters the lake through Rwanda and Tanzania.

According to Kamanzi, the Ministry is working with districts neighbouring the infested lakes to clear the weed by availing them with the necessary equipment and funds.

He also said that communities have been mobilised to utilise the weed economically as one way of fighting it. The abundant plants are being used to make handcrafts, animal feeds and in biogas production.

“This is not to say that the weed is good, but if it has economic benefits, we are turning bad into good; killing two birds with one stone so to speak. But our aim is to wipe it out completely.” Kamanzi added.

This week Ugandan authorities struck a deal with Egypt where the two countries will join hands to tackle the fast-growing weed and River Kagera, one of the major rivers feeding into Lake Victoria is one of the major areas of focus where action will be extended.

The largest part of the river lies within Rwanda. The growth rate of Water Hyacinth is among the highest of any plant known. Its population can double in as little as 12 days.

According to scientists, its floating mats can weigh up to 200 tonnes per acre.

The weed greatly affect big and small aquatic animals within the ecosystem of the water bodies, threatening to make them instinct. It also greatly affects fishing activities.

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