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February 23, 2019

Dredging Lake Victoria starts today

MV Mango Tree Group dredger which will clean up Lake Victoria. /MAURICE ALAL
MV Mango Tree Group dredger which will clean up Lake Victoria. /MAURICE ALAL

The clean up of Lake Victoria, including removal of the water hyacinth, will be launched today by the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Raila Odinga.

A dredging vessel owned by Mango Tree Group based in Uganda arrived at the Kisumu pier yesterday. It is 70 metres long and weighs 4,000 tonnes.

Dredging and the removal of hyacinth are part of the transformation of lake-related activities,which include construction of a new port as well as rehabilitation of related infrastructure.

Kisumu deputy governor Mathews Owili said the national and county governments are committed to eradicating the water hyacinth and improving maritime activities.

He said Raila will lead national and county government officials and representatives of Ugandan government to launch removal of the weed from the lake and dredging of the gulf and harbour.

Dredging will start in three months after the arrival of water hyacinth harvester machines to be used alongside the dredger.

Residents will be recruited and trained for the 18-month project.

Revitalising the lake for optimisation of the blue economy is an initiative spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta in collaboration with Raila and Kisumu governor Anyang Nyong’o.

The project is coordinated by multi-government agencies which include Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Fisheries Authority and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.

Mango Tree administrator Frank Nenard said they will dredge the lake to accommodate heavy vessels on its harbours.

They will also extract sand and rocks on the gulf after harvesting the weed. “We expect the lake to be dredged six metres deep by 80 metres wide,” he said.

Currently, the berth cannot accommodate heavy vessels due to huge siltation.

The water hyacinth problem has plagued Lake Victoria for the last 25 years, bringing with it massive negative impact. It vegetates fast and has blocked most of the beaches in Homa Bay and Kisumu with some growing as tall as papyrus reeds, forming bushes in the lake.

Fishermen, who are the most affected, blame the noxious weed for dwindling fish stocks. Kisumu-based Magnam Environmental Network chairman Michael Nyaguti said the weed has affected the sector for decades and has caused loss of lives during fishing expeditions.

Most fishermen have abandoned fishing for alternative ways to make a living.

“We are optimistic that the dredging of the lake and harvesting of the weed will be a great relief. Our fishermen no longer realise huge profits like it was before the weed emerged in the late ’80s,” Nyaguti said.

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