Boats on one of the shores of Lake Victoria (file photo).
By Pius Rugonzibwa
Mwanza — Tanzania has expressed its commitment to work with other East African Community (EAC) member states to safe guard the Lake Victoria Basin whose prosperity is highly threatened, rapid population being one of the major factors.
Addressing the 18th Sectoral Council of Ministers for the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) here at the weekend, the Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Mr Edwin Ngonyani, said despite Lake Victoria having much economic potential, it is experiencing multiple threats, for whose elimination the country is very keen to contribute.
He mentioned some of them as declining water levels, soil erosion, industrial and municipal waste pollution and over-fishing. These render nature and the well-being of over 40 million people living in the basin at greater risks.
“While we make our commitment in contributing to the well-being of our people in the Basin, we are also stressing the need for having clear policies, laws, and harmonized structures for controlling and limiting further degradation of Lake Victoria,” he said.
The Sectoral Council of Ministers met here last week to address issues, that included an assessment of the ongoing projects on water, energy and transport infrastructures as well as considering endorsing the LVBC Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2021.
According to Mr Ngonyani, the projects require individual and collective efforts for their objectives to be realized and beneficial to the people of the region.
However, since many of the projects still relied on foreign donations, the deputy minister called upon member states to consider robust approaches that would sustain the investments as soon as funds from the donor communities ceased.
He pointed out that, while some achievements in addressing environmental management problems of Lake Victoria ecosystems had been recorded, water hyacinth infestation, soil erosion and sedimentation, continued to pose challenges.
Others were water pollution and scarcity, poor sanitation, HIV/Aids, and climate change related issues, which he thanked development partners for helping to tackle.
The Chairman of the Ministerial Session and Ugandan Minister for Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, said growing population pressure was compounding massive environmental issues in the Basin.
“The environmental problems in the Basin have increased both competition and conflicts over the use of shared trans-boundary natural resources, while the LBV population density was higher than the national average of each of the partner states,” he said.
Citing statistics of the World Bank released last year on the Africa Infrastructure Diagnostics, Mr Cheptoris said that per capita income in the East African region could increase by 2.2 per cent with improved infrastructural development.
Basing on the situation on the ground, the minister emphasized on the need for the region to conceive aggressive infrastructure investment plans, particularly for water, energy and transport sectors.
He expressed satisfaction however, over the partner states’ commitments to mobilize funding for pipeline projects like Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP III) and Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation (LVWATSAN).
He challenged them to expedite internal consultations in order to unlock more funding potential