East Africa: Saving Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is the economic, social and ecological basis for 40 million people. But it is under pressure: pollutants are being discharged, untreated sewage is being fed in and the population on its shores is growing rapidly. Fish stocks are threatened and the unique biodiversity is declining. On behalf of the German federal government and the EU, KfW is therefore supporting the countries bordering the lake to improve the management of the lake and its catchment area. If there is agreement among the five participating states, the lake will become an anchor of growth and stability in the region.
Lake Victoria is the most important freshwater reservoir in the region. The East African countries Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi depend on it, but access to drinking water and irrigation remains a major challenge. Numerous trends are threatening the lake: inappropriate agricultural practices increase its siltation. Pollutants are being introduced, endangering the fishing industry and increasing the risk of disease. The population is growing steadily, while at the same time the economy is booming - this increases the pressure of use on the water resources. As a result, water quality in the Lake Victoria catchment area is deteriorating.
More than 250 species of fish live in Lake Victoria, including many cichlids which are found only here. However, the species' abundance in this largest lake in Africa is under threat. Three-quarters of 205 endemic species are seriously endangered. The waters in the lake's catchment area are also suffering. As a result of climate change, wetlands are drying up; deforestation is lowering the water table. The drinking water supply for people in the Lake Victoria catchment area is therefore at risk in the long term. The local residents depend on the lake in many ways: For their food security, climate stabilisation and regional economic development.
"40 million people live from the lake's resources," explains KfW expert Martina Maurer. "But the water quality is deteriorating noticeably, the ecology is endangered, and with it the livelihood of the local residents. If the various interests around the lake are managed peacefully and by mutual agreement, the lake can become a guarantor for growth and stability in the East African region," says Martina Maurer.
In the past, the sustainable management of the lake has repeatedly come up against limits, as the lake is spread over the territory of five states. To protect the resources across borders, the East African Community of Nations convened a special commission in 2003, the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC).
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the EU, KfW is supporting the LVBC with more than EUR 40 million to improve the availability and quality of water at the lake and in its catchment area. The EU with its Water Framework Directive is considered a model in this respect. On the one hand, LVBC is being strengthened in its role of protecting the lake on a supra-regional level - for example, by formulating transnational goals and concepts or by developing a data model for integrated water management. On the other hand, LVBC awards grants for investments in wastewater infrastructure to riparian countries that implement the Water Framework Directive. In the first phase, for example, the municipalities of Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Mwanza (Tanzania) and Kisumu (Kenya) will be supported in improving the treatment of their wastewater. Better sanitation facilities will also be supported. The infrastructure measures will be accompanied by a hygiene awareness campaign.