Lake Albert at risk as Kariba weed spreads farther in floods

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Part of the biogas system inside a kitchen.

The efforts made by the Government of Uganda in partnership with their Egyptian counterparts to control the threat of Kariba weed on Lake Albert and the entire Nile Valley have been frustrated by the flood situation on Lake Albert.

At Wanseko landing site in Buliisa district, the biogas a project piloted in 2018 had started to make positive impact before the flood started in April last year.

Unfortunately, today three of the five families that were trained by the Egyptian Consultants to use biogas units for cooking and had installed them have been submerged and consequently collapsed.

For this case, the biogas technology uses Kariba weed mixed with cow dung as a raw material to generate alternative energy.  Apart from controlling the weed, it was solving a problem of energy to the Lakers who have no easy access to firewood and hydro-electricity.

Mr Dismas Kaahwa, the Kigwera parish councillor in Buliisa district has told Kazi-njema News that they have been working to safeguard the remaining biogas units but the challenge is that the families that sacrificed to install them have gone homeless.

Mr Kaahwa who is also among the youths that have been volunteering to cut the weed for the biogas users adds that they stopped after the biogas systems broke down.

Setting up a biogas unit of its kind can cost between Shs2to3m. Efforts were also underway on Lake Kyoga.

Submerged hut surrounded by Kariba weed at Wanseko landing site in Kigwera Sub-county, Buliisa District.

The Egyptian government had sponsored the project to prevent further spread of the Kariba weed form Lake Albert to South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt through the Nile Valley up to the Mediterranean Sea.

The weed had since 2013 spread from Lake Victoria through Victoria Nile to Lake Kyoga and finally through Kyoga Nile to Lake Albert.

Ms Polly Akello, the in-charge of Aquatic Weed Management of Lake Albert cum Fisheries Officer for Kigwera sub-county in Buliisa district has told Kazi-njema News that the weed needs a robust plan to identify the old or new families and build new biogas units to restart the project.

In December 2020, the water level on Lake Albert did not rise so much.

According to her, the flood caused an increase in waves on the lake that provide a better environment for the movement and spread of weeds beyond Kariba.

The weed prevents boats from landing safely, cripples fishing since some areas can no longer be accessed and also makes water poisonous to human and wildlife consumption.

The weed also affects oxygen presence in the water creating a hard environment for fish presence and multiplication at areas of its concentration in the water.

Ms Akello says before the biogas units broke down, the government of Uganda had already issued out tools used by volunteers to cut the weed from the lake to ensure sustainability because the Egyptian sponsored project had wound up.

The tools include folk spades, gumboots, gloves and wheel barrels.

Audio: Akello on Kariba weed (English)

Mr James Mwesigwa Kihika, the Hoima District Fisheries Officer, says the problem of Kariba weed needed serious attention at the start but now needs much more attention from the central government because the rate of its multiplication has been doubled by the flood.

He has earlier asked policy makers to advocate for adequate fund allocation to control the weed since it was a new challenge that needed sophisticated technology to handle instead of rudimentary tools.

According to him, its removal carelessly can endanger aquatic life.

The machine from Egypt once used at Wanseko was rejected by environmentalists on grounds of sustainability because much as it had capacity to uproot huge quantities of the weed, it could not segregate other important weeds and aquatic safety.

Kariba weed spreads on Lake Albert at Ndaiga landing site in Ndaiga Sub-county, Kagadi District.

Origin of Kariba weed

Kariba weed is originally traced from Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume.

It lies 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) upstream from the Indian Ocean along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Lake Kariba was filled between 1958 and 1963 following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its northeastern end flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River.

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