Govt steps up efforts to eliminate deadly weed from country’s lakes

Government has embarked on a campaign to restore some of the lakes that are near extinction, in an effort to preserve the country’s natural resources and boost economic activities.
A man removes water hyacinth from Lake Cyohoha on Thursday.  (Eric Kabeera)
A man removes water hyacinth from Lake Cyohoha on Thursday. (Eric Kabeera)

Government has embarked on a campaign to restore some of the lakes that are near extinction, in an effort to preserve the country’s natural resources and boost economic activities.

The move follows the near decimation of Lake Cyohoha in Bugesera District that was attacked by the deadly water hyacinth, scientifically known as (Eichornia crassipes). 

The water hyacinth is one of the world’s worst aquatic weeds that infest rivers, dams, lakes and irrigation channels and has affected all continents, except Antarctica.

Water hyacinth grows rapidly forming expansive colonies of tall, interwoven floating plants. It blankets large water bodies, creating impenetrable barriers and obstructing navigation.

Before it became nearly extinct, Cyohoha was a jewel for  Mayange, Musenyi, Mareba and Ngeruka sectors in Bugesera and the attack on the lake by the deadly weed has created acute water shortage in the area and paralysed fishing activities.

“We need to restore this lake not only to conserve the environment but also to help provide clean water and increase fishing activities in the area,” Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the director general of Rema, said on Thursday during the launch of a project that will see the hyacinth weeded out of the lake.

The first phase of the project is expected to clear 126 hectares but at the end of five years, the target is to clear 600 hactares of the lake.

Speaking to The New Times, Gerald Nkundimana, a resident of Ngeruka Sector, welcomed the efforts to salvage the lake, saying it was a great asset and many lives depended on it.

“This was a large lake in 1975, but from 1985, it started drying up because of this weed,” he said.

The former fisherman said that following the attack by the hyacinth, other dangerous plants attacked the lake leading to its near disappearance. 

“It’s a good initiative to restore the lake. It will change our lives because we will be able to fish and make money,” said the 60-year old.

With the biggest part of the lake gone, the small hyacinth-infested part still produces fish and, according to Ephraim Sebarundi, the executive secretary of Ngeruka, at least 1.2 tonnes of fish is extracted from the lake every month, saying that production will increase significantly once the lake is restored.

Restoration exercise

Mukankomeje said the first phase of uprooting the hyacinth and other deadly plants will cost Rwf350 million and it will be implemented by reserve forces (Inkeragutabara) in partnership with local residents.

She added that after weeding out the plants from Cyohoha, they will install water pumps that will supply water to the over 30,000 people in Ngeruka where the problem of water shortage has been endemic.

The other targeted lakes include Ruhondo and Burera in Northern Province, as well as Bugarama marshland in Rusizi District, Western Province.

Besides weeding out the deadly vegetation and ensuring supply of clean water, Mukankomeje said they will restock new fish species in Cyohoha to boost economic activity.

Currently, only tilapia and other small fish are extracted from the lake.

A previous project saw the conservation of Lake Kivu, the country’s biggest water body and Mugesera and Rweru lakes in the Eastern Province.

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