Ethiopia’s biggest lake on the verge of dying

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Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake and the source of Blue Nile, is suffocating under toxic plant species known as the water hyacinth, raising questions about the federal governments’ response and efficiency of the community efforts to eliminate it. The Amhara region Environment, Forest and Wildlife Protection and Development Authority, Dr. Belayneh Ayele says with the current rainy season, the weed is spreading widely, infesting about 50,000 hectares of the lake.
Three million people rely on the lake to preserve their livelihoods in an environment that has increasingly come under threat. The lake has thirty-seven islands, twenty of which host ancient churches and monasteries that lie hidden in the remaining native forests.
But locals say the number of hotels and commercial establishments, constructed on the southern shores of the lake, Bahir Dar town, are sending thousands of tonnes of sewerage waste into the lake every year, causing the weed to thrive. In addition to this, farmers in the area are using large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are washed into the lake. Dr. Belayneh confirmed the phosphates and nitrates entering into the lake are blocking out light needed by species living below and posing danger to the fishing industry.
Dr. Belayneh said his bureau has organized an initiative to save Lake Tana in partnership with local communities, who harvest the weed manually. For instance, he mentioned, more than 22,000 hectares have been uprooted with the participation of 184,000 people this year.Experts say the weed will remain difficult to eradicate with such initiative. “Resource mobilization from various regional, national and international institution need to be considered as water hyacinth management requires huge sources,” the Water Hyacinth Coverage Survey Report compiled by scholars from Bahir Dar University in 2015 commended.
The Amhara region has requested support from the federal government and international organizations to control the effluent and waste that pours into the waters. Not much help came except the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that promised to develop a project in order to support the effort technically and financially, a project that has to be realized on the ground.
Activists say water hyacinth weed is just a symptom of what is ailing the lake. Pollution, over fishing and ecological destruction are bigger problems causing the catastrophe. The German-government funded the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), involved in the conservation of the lake since 2012 warned that there is a real danger that the lake will be permanently damaged as almost all of the forests in the catchment area of the lake have been converted into farmland and an intensification of agriculture, the overgrazing of pastures and expansion of farmland has contributed to the problem of land degradation and soil erosion.

Arefayné Fantahun
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  1. Camille De Stoop says:

    A pity this article does not mention that water hyacints make good organic compost, animal fodder and source of energy.

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