Lake victoria is facing too much stresses that affect the quality of water in the lake, experts have said.
The remarks were made as EAC partner states marked the World Wetlands Day on Sunday under the theme, “Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth.”
The event, in Busia County, Kenya, drew Rwandan officials from the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project Phase Two (LVEMP II) and from other EAC member states.
The environmental experts said human activities are destroying the environment around Lake Victoria Basin.
“Farming, cutting trees, people encroaching on wetlands that ends up polluting the waters are all causing too much stress on the Basin,” said Dr Raymond Mngodo, the regional project coordinator of LVEMPII.
All five EAC member states that share the Lake Victoria Basin were asked to sensitise communities to protect the environment.
Rwanda has set up legal framework on the use of wetlands, lakes and rivers whereby a radius of 50 metres from the shores has to be preserved.
Cyprien Mudasubira, who lives near the showers of Rweru Lake in Bugesera District, said human activities used to have dire effects on the lake but this has since changed.
“People grazed their cattle near the lake and would cut trees anyhow, but since we started protecting the lake, respecting the radius of 50 metres from the shores, the fish yield is now steady,” Mudasubira, president of a cooperative to protect Lake Rweru, said.
Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for environment, water and natural resources, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, urged citizens to respect water banks and wetlands.
“Our rivers are the most degraded with litter, we have to change this,” Prof. Wakhungu said, adding that there is a programme of planting bamboo trees on river banks to protect against erosion.
“We have to plant 50 million tree seedlings this year; how do we achieve this? If everyone plants two seedlings a day, we will succeed,” he added.
Fishing is one of the main benefits people in the Lake Victoria Basin enjoy.
But, according to people at Mukoba Beach Bunyale Sub-county, Busia in Kenya, fish stocks in Lake Victoria have gradually dwindled due to illegal fishing and other human activities such as agriculture and waste dumped in the water.
“They use wrong nets and catch immature fish and that’s why I say that the lake has gone mad these days. But we have now put in place surveillance mechanism to stop illegal fishing,” said Justine Noel Ojiambo, leader of a 300-member community group at Mulukoba Beach.
Experts called for more efforts in mobilising people to own environmental conservation activities.
Dr Mngodo said there is need to reduce pressure on the lake to realise more fish production.
LVEMP II has been implementing activities in Lake Victoria Basin for more than five years and it winds up next year.
The Lake Victoria Basin in Rwanda covers about 90 per cent of Rwanda’s area that is 21,362 square kilometres.