May 5, 2011

Lake Tanganyika preservation vital

Lake Tanganyika is a natural phenomenon, and if not properly maintained will lose its beauty, especially that the lake sustains life and livelihoods for millions of people in the vicinity.

In the recent past, the lake has been declining because of the assault of climate change and human overuse through activities being carried out by the community who live near and around the lake.

The lake has been heated up sharply over the past 90 years because of an increase in global human emissions of greenhouse gases. The rise in temperature is correlated with the loss of biological productivity and accompanied by a drop in algae volumes. Thus it has revealed increasing evidence that the sustainability of the lives of more than 10 million people who live around the lake is threatened.

It is for this call that the four countries (Zambia, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which surround the lake have come together to overcome this problem through the implementation of the Lake Tanganyika Regional Integrated Development Programme.

It has been observed that the lake is exposed to danger, indicating a threat to the ecosystem. Some of the threats that are being faced by Lake Tanganyika are the over-exploitation of the biological ecosystem resource because of over-fishing and the use of destructive fishing methods resulting in the reduction of the fishing potential and the unique bio-diversity. Pollution, which involves industrial and domestic waste water and solid waste from large cities and towns like Bujumbura, Kigoma, Uvira, Kalena, Mpulungu and Rumonge and other small villages, is a big challenge.
Another challenge is the habitant destruction which includes land use and pollution which are principal causes of the habitants' destruction.

Thus the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA) has come up with a programme which shall educate the people living near the lake on how to maintain it by their activities. Hence, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Permanent Secretary Lillian Kapulu said the ministry would continue to provide the policy and regulatory guidance as well as other support to ensure that common aspirations were espoused in the Lake Tanganyika Convention. "Lake Tanganyika is an extremely important ecosystem not only to the local communities that reside in the lake basin but to the entire populations in the riparian countries," Kapulu said.

The great lake has played an important role in Zambia's socio-economic sector such as fisheries, transport and trade which contribute significantly to the livelihoods of many people dwelling in the countries near the lake. There are many social and economic activities that take place in the lake basin that have led to deforestation, soil erosion, water, pollution and sedimentation. The activities have also led to the effects of natural and human induced climate change in form of droughts and floods which have impacted negatively on the lake's ecosystem. The lake has been exposed to a lot of threats such as unsustainable agricultural practices and deforestation which have resulted in erosion and excessive sediment and nutrient loads. It has not been spared of the effects of global climate change. "Our people in the communities should be engaged on a continuous basis for them to understand their role in the sustainable management of the lake," Kapulu also said.

African Development Bank (AfDB) resident representative Freddie Kwesiga said Lake Tanganyika could be regarded as a major development corridor linking all the four riparian countries through various other improved infrastructures like the Mpulungu port and other water way transport corridors to the Great Lakes region. According to him, AfDB had invested US$5 million in the implementation of the Regional Integrated Management and Development Programme of Lake Tanganyika to ensure the safety of the people living near the lake. He said the strong human pressure had constituted a serious threat to the sustainability of the lake's natural resource and social conditions. The bank has supported the creation of the LTA to spearhead the conservation and management of the Lake basin in the riparian countries.

Lake Tanganyika is one of the ancient lakes in the world that has existed for more than 12 million years, thus it is important that its beauty continues to be maintained for both the current and future generations. (Times of Zambia)

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