Waterways (or Water Transport) in Lakes
(Victoria, Kyogo, Albert, Edward)
Dr. Ahmed Barrania
The Nile Basin Lakes region includes the six countries in the southern portion of the Nile Basin—Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda—as well as the downstream riparian Egypt and Sudan. The water resources of the Nile Basin Lakes region include one of the world’s great complexes of lakes, wetlands, and rivers. The region’s economies are characterized by rain-fed agriculture, subsistence farming, low industrialization, and poor infrastructure development
The transport potential of the waterway systems in the Nile Basin Lakes' Region could offer easy and cheap transportation means. The Region's inland waterways have long been mooted as part of the solution to the Region's transport woes. While road and rail networks require constant maintenance and upgrading, navigable rivers and lakes have need of far less investment and infrastructure.
Nile Basin Lakes: Victoria, Kyoga, Albert and Edward are of great use when integrated with transport networks across the Region. This will be an efficient method of transporting goods and promoting trade. This will have an effect of substantially reducing the transportation costs of imports and exports for the member countries."
. The water transport sub-sector policy to be aimed at promoting efficient, safe and effective transport services. This will provide effective support for increased agricultural and industrial production, increased trade and tourism, and provide support to social and administrative services. This will enable the water transport to play the critical role in developing an integrated and self-sustaining economy and thus enhance Government’s strategy of poverty eradication.
For instant, approximately 18% of Uganda’s total areas (241,038 sq Km) is under water and swamps in form of lakes and rivers some of which are navigable. Uganda boasts numerous waterways such as: Lakes Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, George and Edward; and the Victoria and Albert Niles. Almost all of Uganda’s water resources are Tran boundary in nature and shared with her neighbors. Uganda’s major shared water bodies include the following:
· Lake Victoria – Shared with Kenya and Tanzania;
· Lake Albert – Shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo;
· Lake Edward – Shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
These water bodies can be used as means of transport for communities living in island and across these lakes. Water transport was formerly widespread in Uganda. Up to the early 1960’s steamers operated passenger services on the big lakes and on the navigable sections of the Nile. The heavy rains of 1961 submerged and/or damaged most of the infrastructure. Most of it has stayed in a state of disrepair. There is also lack of navigation aids. The Inland Water Transport Study (IWTS), carried out in 1988, identified over 70 landing sites around Uganda where formal or informal water transport services had been operated. The Government operates ferry services as a continuation of the national roads across points on rivers and lakes where it would be uneconomical to build bridges. These ferry services are important for linking parts of the country to the capital, regional centers and communities.
Physical Features and Socio-economic Aspects
Lake Victoria, with a surface area of 68,800 km2 and an adjoining catchments of 184,000 km2, is the world's second largest body of fresh water, and the largest in the developing world, Lake Victoria touches the Equator in its northern reaches, and is relatively shallow, reaching a maximum depth of about 80 m, and an average depth of about 40 m. The lake's shoreline is long (about 3,500 km) and convoluted, enclosing innumerable small, shallow bays and inlets, many of which include swamps and wetlands which differ a great deal from one another and from the lake itself. Because the lake is shallow, its volume is substantially less than that of other Eastern African lakes with much smaller surface area. Lake Victoria holds about 2,760 km3 of water, only 15 percent of the volume of Lake Tanganyika, even though the latter has less than half the surface area.
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda control 6, 49, and 45 percent of the lake surface, respectively. The gross economic product of the lake catchments is in the order of US$3-4 billion annually. The lake catchments thus provides for the livelihood of about one third of the combined populations of the three countries, and about the same proportion of the combined gross domestic product. With the exception of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the lake catchments economy is principally an agricultural one, with a number of cash crops (including exports of fish) and a high level of subsistence fishing and agriculture. In Kenya and Uganda the areas of coffee and tea in the catchments are a significant part of those nations' major agricultural imports. The quality of the physical environment is therefore a fundamental factor in maintaining and increasing the living standards of the growing population.
More than 80% of the populations in the Lake basin are engaged in agricultural production, the majority as small scale farmers and livestock owners producing maize and cash crops such as sugar, tea, coffee, cotton and meat. The fish resources of the lake sustain – directly or indirectly – livelihood for about 3 million people engaged in subsistence, artisanal and commercial fishing. The fisheries are very important as a source for foreign exchange earnings with an annual landed value of 300-400 million USD.
Lake Victoria Basin’s potential lies in the opportunities for investment in: fisheries and tourism; transport and communications; water and energy; and in agriculture, trade and industry. Considering the whole basin, the potential is further extended to cover the abundant natural resources in wildlife, forestry, minerals and fertile soils.
Lake Victoria crucial significance to the region and globally arises from the following values...
- Largest inland water fishing sanctuary;
- Major inland water transport linkage for the three East Africa countries;
- A source of water for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes;
- Major reservoir for hydroelectric power generation;
- Major climate modulator in the region; and
- Rich in biodiversity.
Lake Victoria is the principal waterway with commercial traffic. In conjunction with train services, the railway companies of Uganda and Tanzania operate train ferries on the lake between railhead ports of the two countries and Kenya. These ferries load rail aches and wagons. The safety record has been poor in recent years. Jinja and Port Bell (on a 7 km branch line from Kampala) are the railheads for Uganda, connecting to Mwanza, Tanzania and Kisumu, Kenya. Smaller vessels that provide transportation services between the various landing sites. Many vessels are meant to transport commuters to some of Lake Victoria’s many islands.
Lake Victory as like other water bodies it cause many of disaster especially in the fishing activities and the navigation too, especially the steamer MV Bukoba sank in the lake on October 3, 1995, killing nearly 1,000 people.
Major threats to the waterways in the lake
. The re-emergence of hyacinth might hinder water transportation in the lake as well as interfere with fishing. All these are now in their death throes despite efforts made by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and their development partners, including the World Bank, to salvage the lake.
. The main detrimental effects of the spreading mats of water hyacinth are as follows:
1. reduction in fish in the lake through de-oxygenation of water and reduction of nutrients in sheltered bays which are breeding and nursery grounds for fish, particularly tilapia;
2. physical interference with fishing operations, especially in the bays where fish are brought ashore to piers or landing beaches;
3. physical interference with commercial transportation services for people and goods on the lake;
4. physical interference with access to water supply from the lake, for both urban and rural communities, together with additions to the cost of purifying water with higher concentrations of suspended, decaying organic matter as a result of the hyacinth presence;
5. threats to the intakes at the Owen Falls hydroelectric power station in Uganda; and
Various water hyacinth control options exist (physical/manual, mechanical, chemical, biological, utilization, and environmental manipulation), but identifying the most efficient, viable and environmentally friendly option combination for Lake Victoria remains elusive. Manual and mechanical control measures have had little impact. Biological control may be regarded as a viable option, especially if systematically introduced in the entire great lakes region and upper Nile basin. However, this option is expensive and takes many years to show impact.
To the riparian government authorities, the control and management of water hyacinth on Lake Victoria is so critical that many other related issues may be easily ignored. Controlling water hyacinth on Lake Victoria and preventing its spread to other water bodies involves inter-governmental agencies and requires regional cooperation. In addition, the effective control and management of the weed requires large financial inputs and commitment to long-term management capability, which the East Africa countries are unlikely to be able to afford even on a short-term basis. Uncertainty caused by the scale of water hyacinth infestations and the scope of its detrimental effects may explain the sometimes conflicting mechanisms and methods suggested for weed control.
The fall in lake level is another threat to the water transport in the Lake. The variation in the lake level is a result of a combination of two factors:
a. Reduced input in terms of rain and inflows into the lake system; and
b. Increased outflows caused by excess releases at Jinja.
Lake Kyoga and the Victoria Nile south of the lake constitute the second most important commercial waterway. There used to be a steamboat service between Namasagali, a railhead port on the Nile, going as far as Masindi-Port on the other side of Lake Kyoga.
Impact of Exotic Weeds
Increased nutrient loads into the lake also seem to have spurred water hyacinth infestations, particularly in bays receiving municipal sewage.
There are a variety of socioeconomically detrimental effects of water hyacinth. These include:
· Physical threats to water-based utilities, especially the national hydroelectric power station in Uganda, and to water intakes, in addition to increased operational costs for purifying and pumping the water;
· Physical interference to water supply for rural communities;
· Physical interference with fishing operations (entanglements or loss of nets), especially in fishing grounds, at fish landings, and around piers;
· Blockage of commercial transport routes and communications between islands; and
· Increased operational costs for commercial vessels.
Albert, Lake, or Albert Nyanza, a lake in the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa. The lake is divided between Uganda on the east and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the west. The lake has an area of 2,075 square miles (5,374 km2) and a maximum depth of 170 feet (52 m). It is about 110 miles (180 km) long, northeast-southwest, and up to 30 miles (48 km) wide.
Edward, Lake, or Edward Nyanza, a lake in east-central Africa, on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. It is about 50 miles (80 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) wide, and has an area of 830 square miles (2,150 km2).
Lake Edward likes Lake Albert, do not carry commercial traffic to any great extent.