Water vessel from Tanzania stuck in water hyacinth off shores of Lake Victoria at the Ports of Kisumu on February 14,2017. The concentration of the weed has paralyzed all operations at the port as this vessel had stayed off shore for one week with it’s crew inside. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)
A government agency has painted a gloomy picture of the state of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria, which now covers large swathes of the water body.
The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) says the weed will continue to affect several beaches in the Nyanza region in the coming months due to changing weather patterns.
KMFRI made the observation as the Government announced that it would engage 1,700 more youths to remove the stubborn weed.
As at January 8, about 10,360 hectares of the lake were covered by the weed, up from the 7,925 hectares in December last year, according to KMFRI.
February saw the coverage drop significantly to 4,260 hectares. Experts explained that the weed dried and sank in most parts of Nyanza.
In the same month, thousands of Kisumu residents were hit by water shortage after the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company reduced its supply due to the weed.
Yesterday, KMFRI Director Christopher Aura said the nature of some of the bays and landing sites, coupled with the changing wind patterns and high germination rates of the weed, were likely to increase the area under hyacinth coverage.
As at March 13, the stubborn weed had increased its coverage from the 4,260 hectares recorded in February to 6,698 hectares.
“The weed is at times pushed by water currents when the wind blows but sheltered bays normally block the wind from pushing away the weed,” explained Aura.
He noted that the high nutrient load in the lake also contribute to the increase in coverage of the weed.
Under suitable conditions, he said, water hyacinth doubles its population in between five and 15 days.
Aura suggested that as part of efforts to mitigate its effects, the weed should be manually removed.
“Short-term plans of dealing with the weed should include manual removal and then it can be used to make items such as baskets and seats,” he said.
However, he noted that the long-term priority should be the removal of the weed’s seeds to ensure that they do not germinate.
Last week, Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma said the national government should lead the effort to deal with the weed because Lake Victoria is a national asset.
“The lake is a national asset and because of that, the weed should be removed by the national government,” said Ranguma adding that the national government had set aside Sh500 million to protect the lake.
State House Spokesman Manoa Esipisu yesterday said 1,700 more youths would join the 500 who have started working on the removal of the weed in Siaya County.
He said recruitment of the 1,700 youths through the National Youth Service (NYS) programme is complete and that the youths are waiting to be deployed.
According to Mr Esipisu, 500 youths have been recruited in Ugenya, 700 in Rarieda, and another 500 in Bondo sub-county.
Water hyacinth has been a thorn in the flesh of residents of Nyanza and western Kenya, especially those who depend on fishing.
Most beaches in Kisumu, Siaya, and Homa Bay counties have been covered by the weed. Experts have warned that human activities around the lake greatly contribute to the spreading of the weed.
In a previous programme, the Government had planned to spend approximately Sh40 million to fast-track manual removal of the weed through the youths recruited in Bondo a month ago.
The number of the youths has been increased due to the rapid spread of the weed.
“In a fresh bid to get this work done more quickly, we have decided to add more NYS cohorts to be involved in the removal of hyacinth and other projects,” said Esipisu.
He said like previous NYS projects, the youths would be organised in saccos to save part of their earnings from the project.
They will be expected to use their savings in other economic engagements once the project ends.
At least 5,000 other youths have benefited from NYS projects in Kisumu, with about Sh93 million currently available for them in their saccos for loaning.