Disappearing Lake Rukwa gets 3bn/- grant for restoration, protection

28Nov 2018
Beatrice Philemon
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Disappearing Lake Rukwa gets 3bn/- grant for restoration, protection

CENCERNS that Lake Rukwa may disappear within the next few decades has prompted International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund for Nature and Netherland Embassy to issue a 3bn/- grant to salvage it.

Cattle scattered around the shore of a rapidly shrinking Lake Rukwa which scientists have warned may go into extinction in a few decades ahead. Photo: Beatrice Philemon.

The rift valley lake which is an important catchment area for rivers in Rukwa and Katavi regions but also an important source of proteins and income for the neighbourhood has been depleted by illegal fishing and pastoralists.

The grant will enable ActionAid Tanzania, Haki Ardhi and Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT) to mobilize and train people in Rukwa and Katavi regions on basic conservation guidelines and natural resource protection as a main source of their daily needs.

Shared Resources, Joint Solutions (SRJS ) Programme Coordinator, Andrew Mariki said earlier this week that the grant will also be used to encourage tree planting around the shrinking lake. During a visit to the area recently, Mariki said ignorance has played an important role in destruction of the lake which has unique flora and fauna species.

“Under the program, we will also train communities on gender equality, land use planning and rights and how they can access legal aid services to solve challenges facing them in future,” Mariki added. He said 10 villages from Katavi and Rukwa regions will directly be involved in the five-year project dubbed SRJS.

Apart from the threat of the disappearance of Lake Rukwa within the next few decades, scientists also warn the human health and environment have badly been destroyed by pollution as artisanal miners are also rife around the lake.

“Water pollution is very high while the water volume has declined by almost 70 percent,” said the SRJS Coordinator.

The alkaline Lake Rukwa is located midway between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa at a height of about 800 metres and covering an area of 5,760 sq km, almost half of the lake lies within the Uwanda Game Reserve.

"Wild animals and associated biodiversity at the Uwanda game reserve, Rukwa game reserve and Lukwati game reserve depend fully on water from this lake for their survival," said Mariki. The lake basin is frequently visited by hippopotamus, otters and more than 80,000 breeding great white pelicans. The lake is also home to nearly 60 fish species, of which one-third are endemic, the IUCN said.

Unfortunately, the depth of the lake significantly dropped from 9.5 metres to 3.4 metres in the last 10 years. The 2014 Bathymetric Survey, which was jointly funded by the USAID and Global Water for Sustainability, had pointed out the waning water level.