Lake Victoria

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Lake Victoria - Damaged Natural Resource

Photographer: Stephen Morrison

 

As the sun rises over Lake Victoria, the largest freshwater lake in Africa, a variety of fishing boats come into view, from small dugout canoes paddled with teardrop shaped oars to large flat bottomed boats with triangular sails leaning into the wind.

From the shores of Homa Bay in western Kenya an ancient way of life, passed on from father to son, greets each new day in the same way stretching back through the centuries. Men, up and at work long before dawn, become visible in the early morning haze hauling nets, flicking hooked worms with small twigs into the ocean like expanse hoping for a catch that will feed their families for another day. Homa Bay is a typical fishing village, one of hundreds on the shores of the great lake surrounded by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the centre of Africa. But this way of life is under threat from numerous sources.

The ecological health of Lake Victoria has been affected profoundly as a result of a rapidly growing population, clearance of natural vegetation along the shores, a booming fish-export industry, the disappearance of several fish species native to the lake, prolific growth of algae, and dumping of untreated effluent by several industries, towns and villages along its shores. Much of the damage is vast and irreversible. Traditional lifestyles of lakeshore communities have been disrupted and are crumbling. There is a consensus among scientists that if an accelerated push to save the lake is not made soon, this much-needed body of water will cease to sustain life. As leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss climate change next month Africa will argue for money from the west to help adapt to and hopefully reverse some of the ecological problems on the continent.