Preventive or remedial action on Lake Victoria habitat threat lacks paradigm

The Guardian
Published at 08:00 AM May 22 2024
Shores of Lake Victoria
Photo: Guardian Correspondent
Shores of Lake Victoria

THERE is a formula on transforming a decaying situation where the value of an asset is at issue – and that is to auction it.

There it is possible that someone can put it to great use where it is, whereas an original user would need hefty amounts of money to bring it back to proper use.

An example of this situation is the fruitless search for an investor at the Tanzania-China Friendship Textile Mill, where the government has for decades only looked for an investor able and willing to use local cotton and export clothing as was once the case.

What isn’t quite visible is that the land where the mill stands is of prime value, not just a factory site.

There is something being seen in relation to the complex that is likely to be of relevance in other areas on account of a devastating environmental dislocation of economic activity in many places.

A notable elder in Kagera Region over the weekend expressed fear that Bukoba municipality may gradually be swallowed by water in the wake of extensive swelling of Lake Victoria, that is, in case the tendency continues from one rainy season to the next.

It is all that clear, but such a projection is possible as ice melting on earth caps emboldens oceanic currents and cyclones.

The crunch comes up when the elder demands that there are immediate measures to address the situation that the government ought to take, whereas even the part funded by the World Bank is being scaled down.

That is what ministers representing the states sharing the lake’s waters were told in the April meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

We also heard reactions from top Treasury circles that the partner states need to tax more to protect the lake, in which case it is hard to execute more projects around the lake.

But if some reformist policy panel were to look at the situation around the lake, it would likely not recommend the search for billions of shillings to rectify the swelling or deal with future threats of the sort. Rather, it might have gone for changes in the land ownership land scale.

It is a matter of declaring a sort of climate emergency where old habits of land use rights can no longer work, as no one is sure what comes next, with floods, landslides or cyclones that can destroy vast patches of agricultural land.

A Russian formula could work, with the land going to actual users or occupants who could then seek buyers giving them sufficient funds to resettle elsewhere profitably.

That can still be done as, otherwise, the poorer sections of society might suffer the brunt of relocating without a cent.