Steeped in legend, Lake Victoria plays a vital role in the lives of millions of people who live on the shoreline of Africa's largest lake. Bordered by three countries, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, Lake Victoria is crucial to the survival of the people who live in its vicinity.
The Source of the Nile
In the mid 1800's the Holy Grail in the exploration world was to find the source of the Nile. Many theories and ideas were bandied about and explained - and when the source was correctly called as Lake Victoria by British explorer John Hanning Speke there was a great deal of disagreement - even leading to the death of Speke. It was only in later years that Henry Morton Stanley confirmed Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile.
Dying of an icon
Lake of legend, source of the Nile and one of the world's richest freshwater eco-systems, Lake Victoria is sadly dying in its own reputation. Mass pollution and the invasion by alien species are slowly suffocating the lake.
Three cities on the lakeshore pump their waste into the lake - Mwanza in Tanzania, Kisumu in Kenya and Kampala in Uganda - with Mwanza discharging 65 million liters of sewage into the lake every day.
Ageing machinery cannot cope with the demands of the growing cities - and the raw sewerage pours into the lake. Soil erosion and factory pollution add to the toxins flowing freely into Lake Victoria resulting in very high nutrient levels. The high nutrient levels in turn provide the ideal environment for water hyacinth - a suffocating plant that has become increasingly problematic.
Colonization by humans and fish
The most affected areas are the reaches on the shores of Uganda - this is due to the prevailing southerly winds pushing the plant towards the Ugandan shores. The plant grows in a thick and tangled mat that eventually prevents sunlight penetrating into the water.
The lake's problems started pre 1950 with colonization when huge demands were placed on the fish stocks in the lake through commercial fishing. The fish stocks plummeted until it was non-viable to fish commercially. A commercial decision was made to stock the lake with nile perch in the hope that it would revive the fishing industry. This it certainly did, however, it did lead to ecological disaster when the perch annihilated the indigenous species - eventually succumbing themselves to lack of food.
Lake Victoria - the future
Lake Victoria today still entertains tourists on its shores and islands, tourists who are more often than not oblivious to the ecological meltdown that has taken place. What is needed is a concerted effort by all countries and organizations involved in Lake Victoria to save this precious eco-system - not only for the wildlife species but also for the more than 30 million people who rely on its resources to survive.