Tanzania: Environmental Woes Hit Lakes, Rivers

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

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UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

November 16, 2006
Posted to the web November 16, 2006


The Tanzanian government is working with community stakeholders to mitigate the effects of climate change on water levels in Lake Victoria and other lakes.

The effects are biting hard as millions of people in the East African country suffer from power outages, decimated water supplies and suspended or reduced transport services.

Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office in charge of Environment, Mark Mwandosya, attributed the changes to the reckless felling of trees and cultivation on river banks.

The minister said all lakes, including Lake Tanganyika on the western border with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, Lake Manyara and Lake Natron in the north and Rukwa in the southwest, were affected by falling water levels.

"We are now drawing up a strategy to tackle the problem and mitigate effects on the people," Mwandosya said in parliament in Dodoma, the political capital, in response to questions by members of parliament who had expressed concern over falling water levels in Lake Victoria.

A legislator from Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, Kidawa Salehe, had wanted to know what was behind the dwindling levels of water, the impact on millions of people around the lake and measures being taken to reverse the trend.

The deputy minister for water, Shamsa Mwangunga, said a drought for three consecutive years had contributed to the drying-up of Lake Victoria. She said rains accounted for 85 percent of water supplies to the lake. The drought had also affected several rivers and tributaries supplying the lake, the world's second largest.

Moreover, Mwangunga said there had been an increase in water usage from the lake after the construction of a hydro-electric power generation station in Jinja, Uganda. She said as of 21 October, Lake Victoria's water was 1,131.7 metres above sea level, down from an average of 1,132.2 metres above sea level.

In Mwanza, Mwangunga said, water supply was down to 38,000 cubic metres a day, from 42,000 cubic metres, while in Bukoba the output was now 4,000 cubic metres, down from 7,000 cubic metres. In Musoma, main pipes were shifted to a different source, leading to increased operational costs.

Residents of the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, had been adversely affected in the last six months. Falling water levels in hydro-electric power generation plants had forced factories to review production schedules and some had closed.

"We have been closed since September, because of erratic power supply," Clifford Antao, the production engineer of JJ Industries in Dar es Salaam, said. "It is our hope the rains will resume in January and we are going to re-open in February."

The firm, which employs 300 workers, makes steel products, nails and aluminium roofing sheets.

In April, the Tanzanian government announced stringent measures to curb environmental degradation, including the eviction of pastoralists and farmers from protected lands.

"Human activities - such as reckless tree-felling, use of plastic bags, uncontrolled cattle grazing, invasion of reserved forest areas and mountains - are some of the causes of extensive environmental degradation," Ali Mohammed Shein, Tanzania's Vice-President, said on 2 April in a speech broadcast on national radio and television.

He ordered pastoralists who had settled in game reserve areas and valleys, including the hills and mountains in eastern and central Tanzania's Eastern Arc as well as Mt Kilimanjaro in the north, to vacate the land immediately. According to government statistics, Tanzania has at least 18 million head of cattle. Their search for pasture leads to massive environmental degradation.

Shein also urged the public to participate in a countrywide tree-planting campaign. Every district should plant at least 1.5 million trees every year, he said.

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He directed tobacco and tea farmers and other parties who use trees as a means of energy to join the campaign.

"This order is not sparing the military, schools, educational institutions and industries," Shein said. "Every institution should make sure it has a seedling in place by January 2007."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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