Lake Victoria residents resort to prayer as water hyacinth menace spreads

Members of Legio Maria pray by the hyacinth covered shore of Lake Victoria at Lwang’ni beach in Kisumu on February 25,2017. They claimed that the holy spirit had directed them to go pray for the weed to be swayed away by with and clear the business shore which has had it’s business dying.  (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

Residents are now seeking divine intervention to tackle the water hyacinth menace in Lake Victoria.

During the weekend, faithful from the Legio Maria church camped at Dunga beach and prayed for the disappearance of the rapidly spreading weed.

They spent several hours offering prayers as the curious wananchi watched.

Roselyn Otieno, a worshipper with the church, told The Standard that the faithful had been instructed by God to pray for the disappearance of the notorious weed.

“Those with the Holy Spirit are normally focused on the duty that they have been sent to do,” she said.

The prayers come at a time when the weed has been spreading rapidly in the lake, with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) estimating that it had covered up to 10,620 hectares by November 5 last year and announcing that it was spreading fast.


Hyacinth and waste killing lakes

According to Kisumu regional KMFRI director Christopher Aura, the weed has been growing steadily, choking fisheries and transport in the lake.

It is estimated that the weed costs the local economy up to Sh16 million every day with half of the 160 beaches in the lake completely blocked.

So dire is the situation that Kisumu County has sent a special plea to the 13 counties bordering the lake to pool efforts and develop a strategy to eradicate the weed.

The county executive for Water and Environment, Mr Barrack Abonyo, blamed the rapid spreading of the weed on the high rate of pollution in the lake.

“The problem of water hyacinth is not only a Kisumu county affair. It requires an inter-county solution,” said Abonyo.

He said that several counties neighbouring the lake had failed to control pollution and contributed to providing a conducive environment for the weed to grow.

According to KMFRI, under suitable conditions facilitated by heavy nutrient loads in the lake, water hyacinth doubles its population in between five and 15 days.


Experts call for change of tack in hyacinth control

The county director noted that as part of efforts to fight the weed that has left thousands of fishermen without jobs, counties should control the quantity of effluence in the lake.

“There needs to be a national solution to address pollution in Lake Victoria because it is one of the factors contributing to the hyacinth menace,” said Abonyo.

However, experts say divine intervention might not be the best way to control the weed’s rapid spread. Instead they recommend manual removal as the most appropriate solution to combating its rapid spread.

 “Manual removal of water hyacinth is the way to go, especially when it is still confined to the fringes with a few shoots,” said Christopher Aura, the KMFRI director.

For the more creative residents, hyacinth can also be used to make colourful by-products such as baskets and seats.



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