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EAC leaders chart way forward on saving Lake Victoria

By Frank Otieno | June 8th 2015

East African Community (EAC) member states have agreed to eradicate water hyacinth in Lake Victoria and engage in alternative fish farming methods to conserve the lake.

Speaking in Kampala, Uganda, on Friday where they had converged to discuss the conservation of the lake, the EAC leaders resolved to embark on a massive campaign to engage communities that live along lake basin.

Under the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme Phase 2 (LVEMP 2), the teams from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda Tanzania and Burundi also marked the World Environment Day in Rakai district, South Western Uganda.

The participants agreed that fighting water hyacinth on the lake be an immediate target. World Bank has promised to fund the hyacinth management project.

The member states also resolved to find alternative fish farming projects to reduce stress on the lake, with Uganda leading the way by embarking on fish pond farming.

The Kenyan delegation was led by the Director Programmes Projects and Strategic Initiatives in the Ministry of Environment Agnes Yobterik, who also serves as the National Focal point Officer for LVEMP 2 Kenya.

LVEMP 2 seeks to come up with interventions to counter factors that contribute to severe degradation of Lake Victoria basin ecosystem such as deteriorating water quality, declining water levels, over-exploitation of natural resources, resurgence of water hyacinth and climate change.

Ms Yobterik told The Standard that World Bank, which funds the project, has given Kenya and Tanzania more funds after the two countries satisfied the laid down criteria.

"The World Bank has given an additional Sh968 million each to Kenya and Tanzania for the next two and a half years. This extended period is going to help us prepare for a more ambitious programme for the lake basin," said Yobterik.

Uganda has however had the same extension without funding, owing to what the funding agency attributed to sluggish implementation of the project. The Deputy Executive Secretary of Lake Basin Telly Muramira said Uganda had problems kicking off the project from phase one, leading to cancellation of funding from the World Bank.

 "I am happy this problem has been sorted out and we have secured an extension of two and a half years to enable us spend what was disbursed to us," said Muramira.

Rwanda and Burundi joined the project in 2012, being part of the upperwater shed that drains into Lake Victoria. Burundi LVEMP 2 coordinator Liberat Nahimana said his country is keen to fight the water hyacinth infestation.

"Although Lake Victoria is not in Burundi, River Akagera in Burundi drains into the lake and this is a concern to us because water hyacinth comes from the river and so there is need to check pollution of the river," he said.

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