Help to restore Lake Victoria's fading glory, King Charles

Ndhiwa MP Martin Peters Owino. [File, Standard]

Dear King Charles III,

Lake Victoria is the largest Lake in Africa and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world.

During their expedition to find the source of the River Nile, British explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke sighted the lake in 1858 and decided to dedicate their discovery to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and gave it the name it is known by to date.

The lake's area of approximately 69,484km2 is divided among three countries; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The Queen's Lake supports the largest freshwater fishery in the world. It produces more than one million tonnes of fish per year and employs about 200,000 people in direct fishing.

The lake supports the livelihoods of about four million people. It generates over $150 million in export earnings and provides high-quality fish protein to about eight million people in the basin.

Lake Victoria is an important transport route linking the East African States with main ports located in Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell, and Jinja.

The lake is a reservoir for at least four hydropower stations along the Nile, provides water for industrial and domestic use and regulates the local climate.

Lake Victoria basin has fertile soils with a climate that supports cash crops like tea and coffee and food crops such as beans, maize and bananas. Several tourism destinations exist on islands and shorelines and there is potential for sport fishing, boating and cruising safaris. It has the largest number of urban areas in its basin of all the African Great Lakes.

However, the lake is facing serious challenges. The most worrying challenge is the emergence of exotic water hyacinth, which, for a long time, has depleted oxygen levels in the lake. As a consequence, many fish die due to lack of oxygen. This invasive weed has also polluted the lake, besides depleting oxygen.

The weed also blocks sunlight from penetrating into the water, which complicates the reproduction process of fish and destroys fish habitat.

Dead water hyacinth also poses serious threats to water bodies as it causes silting that increases the risk of flooding.

In addition, the water hyacinth is a barrier to boat and ferry movement and impedes access to the shoreline. The weed interferes with water sports and hydroelectric power generation. It also blocks the intake of water for industries. This affects the living standards of the local residents.

There have been efforts to develop and conserve the natural resources of the Lake Victoria basin, but these have not been successful. The main failure seems to be limited funding, making the interventions short-term and unsustainable.

We appeal for the King's intervention. Your Majesty, we appeal for your assistance in securing adequate funding to help restore Lake Victoria and its basin. This will help the lake regain its lost glory.

Conserving the lake will enable the countries sharing it to use it to promote sustainable development and safeguarde livelihoods.

Your Majesty, we are grateful for your concern and commitment regarding environmental protection and promotion, and your interventions. We are sure the challenges facing the Queen's Lake will be reversed and thus restore the lost source of livelihoods for the local residents.

Millions rely on Lake Victoria as their primary source of food, employment and drinking water and therefore its restoration is critical.

Your Majesty, we thank you for your time, understanding and positive consideration of this weighty matter.

Mr Owino is the Member of Parliament, Ndhiwa Constituency