Kenya has scaled efforts to rid Lake Victoria of the water hyacinth following the docking in January of a 4,000-tonne dredging vessel that is expected to eliminate the weed out of the lake for good.
The elimination of the hyacinth is part of plans to revive water transport on Lake Victoria by East African Community member-states as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania look to increase mass haulage of cargo between the East African coast and the hinterland.
While other countries that share the waters of Lake Victoria have successfully dealt with the water hyacinth menace, Kenya has lagged behind, what with the effluent released in the freshwater lake provide ideal conditions for the bulbous plant to flourish.
African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Amolo Odinga, Kisumu Deputy countyGovernor Mathews Owili and Ugandan government officials kicked off the onslaught on the weed in Kisumu mid-January.
The 70-metre long vessel is on a two-fold mission: eradicate the hyacinth as well as increase water depth in ship docking areas accommodate large ships, expecting to start plying the lake before the end of this year.
The arrival of the vessel in Kenya is the outcome of an agreement entered into between the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB)and Mango Tree Group maritime company.
Dr Owili expressed optimism that the vessel will play a key role in transforming the fortunes of the lake region that has been on the down-spiral economically after the water hyacinth colonised the fishing ground and ship docking areas of the lake in the early 1990s.
Owili spoke after leading a team of high-profile officials from county, state agencies and the national government in welcoming the vessel at the docking pier in Kisumu.
The coming of the ship was afulfilment of Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o ‘s Jamhuri Day promise of a shift in the management of the blue economy in the region. Prof Nyong’o singled out the water removal as a priority in the restoration of maritimeactivities on the lake.
Nyong’o kicked off the campaign to eliminate hyacinth by imposing a ban on washing of cars along the shores of the lake and other water bodies to cut effluents that feed the weed.
“We can’t sit by as the blue economy we’ve survived on for decades gets destroyed by our own foolish industrial and farming activities,” the governor declared.
Environmental experts estimate that the rapidly-spreading weed currently covers 17,000 hectares of the lake.The invasion negatively affected other sectors of the local economy that depend on the lake to the detriment of locals.
A fresh breath of life back into the major sectors ranging from maritime transport, tourism fishing and the resurgence of related cottage industries are but some of the rapid and massive economic boons anticipated once the lake is freed from the choking weed.
According the Head of Lake Ports and Inland Ways at the Kenya Ports Authority, Engineer Javan Wanga, the dredger is expected to clear a stretch of 61.3 kilometres starting from the pier in Kisumu to Mbita Bay.
The dredger is also set to enhance the depth to 1.6 square metres around the Kisumu pier and further upgrade the Mbita pier to six meters deeper and 80 metres wide.
The expansion plan, besides the upgrades, will also see the setting up of a second port in Kisumu accompanied with the development of supporting infrastructure.
Besides LREB and KPA, the lake transformative agenda has also ropedin other key implementing state agencies that include Kenya Railways, Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Maritime Authority, National Management Authority and the County government of Kisumu.