A new study on Lake Victory appears to confirm what scientists outside of Uganda have for the past two years said about the drop in water levels in Africa's largest lake.
Yustina Kiwango of Tanzania National Parks and Eric Wolanski of James Cook University in Australia have published a report in the Springer Journal of Wetlands Ecology and Management asserting that the two hydroelectricity dams in Uganda are threatening the health of Lake Victoria and of the people living along its shores. The study suggests that contrary to the position of the Government of Uganda, the systematic overuse of water at Nalubale and Kiira Dams in Jinja decreased the lake level by at least two meters between 2000 and 2006. It insists that this drop was not influenced by weather.
The two dams, both located at the outlet of Lake Victoria in Uganda, have been using water at a rate of 20 to 50 percent above the allowable discharge agreed by Uganda and Egypt in 1957. The dramatic drop in water level has dried the papyrus wetlands around the lake, resulting in an 80 percent collapse in tilapia fisheries harvest because juvenile fish using the wetlands as a refuge. It is expected that in the long term, the commercially fished Nile Perch, which feeds on smaller fish such as tilapia, could also be affected.
The report warns that if overdrawing of water leads to permanent drying of these wetlands, the implications could be far-reaching, with increased of invasion by the non-native water hyacinth, and accelerated global warming.
In the authors' view, the future of Lake Victoria and its people is very closely related to the future of its papyrus wetlands. They are calling on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to urgently address the issue of managing the lake level in a way that involves all stakeholders.