Lake Victoria water hyacinth back with a vengeance
Saturday, October 12, 2002
New Vision (Kampala, Uganda)
The empty-handed fishermen were not singing the usual songs of hefty catches. In a small dusty landing site at Murchison Bay, Port bell, a sombre mood envelops the fisher folk. As the women get out of their crumbling shacks, there is no cause to smile. They curse the gods of the lake whom they believe sent the water-weed that has blocked the landing site.
"This is one of those days, I feel like quitting fishing. If I had something else to survive on I would give up and avoid the lake," Ali Wanyama, a fisherman says.
Wanyama's back is against the wall. The weed has destroyed what has been earning him his daily bread. He says that the water hyacinth would probably stay for weeks. "When the wind blows it away, it will break up into fragments. "We wont go fishing until it goes back into the middle of the lake," adds Wanyama.
The evils of the water-weed are well known.
The deadly weed entered the lake in the early 1980s, according to the head of the hyacinth control unit, Omar Wadda. At its height, the fast hyacinth covered large areas of the lake hindering fishing there by affecting the welfare of the fishing communities, he says.
Wadda contends that the hyacinth has been dealt devastating blows, but it is still a force to reckon with. "It has seeds, which can stay dormant for years and germinate after 10 years. So the struggle against it is far from over," he says.
Three methods were used to bring the weed under control. "We relied on manual, mechanical harvesters and biological methods to bring it under control," he says.
While this has worked in most parts of the lake, there are limitations at Murchison bay. They want the weed to thrive. As a result, the weed permanently covers a portion of the lake close to the mouth of the bay. This is where water from the Nakivubo channel enters the lake.
Wadda says that the Nakivubo swamp, which used to naturally filter the wastes from the Nakivubo channel before passing on the water to Murchison bay has been reclaimed by yam growers and developers.
Wadda says that they keep applying weevils on the fragments that break from the main bulk of the weed at the bay. he is sure the information the department has will help keep it under control.