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Alarm As Lake Victoria's Water Level Falls
Friday, August 27, 2004

Cargo and passenger vessel operators have raised concern over Lake Victoria's falling water levels.

The lake, they say, has become shallower in most parts of Nyanza Gulf, making it difficult for vessels to use the piers.

Those using the Kisumu and Mbita piers want the cause of the low water level investigated as it is also threatening fishing. The worst affected is Mbita, where two private ferries plying the Luanda Kotieno and Mbita route have had difficulties using the jetties.

Mr Ted Odero, a Mbita Ferry manager, said the company was considering extending its jetty into the lake because the depth had dropped by about four feet.

Said Mr Odero: "We find it difficult to dock our ferries because of the decreasing depth. We may have to use more money to extend the jetty into the lake."

A Nation check found that huge chunks of the shore (in Suba, Nyando and Kisumu districts) - previously covered by water - were now dry land.

The Kenya Railways Corporation, too, cannot use its pier at Mbita because of the low water levels.

Shipping experts warn that the decrease in depth could affect fishing and marine transport as boats may not be able to dock at the designated beaches.

"It will be a crisis if the levels continue to fall and the Government must quickly investigate why the lake is becoming shallower," said Mr Odero.

He wants the Government to comment on claims that the water level on the Kenyan side had fallen because Uganda was using millions of gallons to fill its second hydro-electricity dam at Jinja.

"We have to be told what is happening to the lake because it is the bread basket to many people," he added.

The Mbita ferry transports close to 2,000 passengers and cargo daily.

Marine officials at the Kisumu port, however, downplayed the fears, saying their docking piers were not badly affected.

"It is true the water levels have fallen but it is not yet a big risk for vessels and we are studying the situation," said an officer who sought anonymity.

He said a survey in June found the depth to have gone down to between 10 and seven feet at the Kisumu pier and to between six and five feet in Mbita.

The area around Winam Gulf, he said, had recently become shallower and required urgent dredging.

"We need to dredge the area was a short term-measure," he added.

Experts at the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme, however, attribute the decrease to massive siltation in feeder rivers and on the lake shore.

Rivers like Nzoia, Nyando, Yala, Miriu and Migori discharge millions of tonnes of silt and other pollutants into the lake.

Copyright 2004 The Nation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). Click here to contact the copyright holder directly for corrections -- or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material.


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