January 24-25, 2023, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania): Lake Victoria is a world-renowned ecologically unique waterbody shared by three countries—Tanzania (51 per cent), Uganda (44 per cent) and Kenya (5 per cent). Despite being the lifeline and the source of livelihood for 45 million people, Lake Victoria hassuffered immensely from a variety of unsustainable human activities over the last five decades. Taking note of the deteriorating condition of the lake, New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has joined hands with Tanzania’s National Environment Management Council (NEMC) to develop a strategy to improve its water quality.
To mark this global collaboration, a report Titled Lake Victoria:Roadmapfor Management of Water Quality in MwanzaCity-Tanzaniawas released here today by the Permanent Secretary, Vice President’s Office, Mary N Maganga. The report is the final outcome of an earlier discussion paper-- Development of an Environmental Management Strategy for Lake Victoria-- that had been released in July 2022.
A research team from CSE, headed by the Centre’s Executive Director AnumitaRoychowdhary, is in Tanzania to conduct and coordinate the release meeting in association with the Director General of NEMC, EngDr Samuel G Mafwenga.
In her introductory remarks, Roychowdhary appreciated the collaborative work between CSE and NEMC spanning almost five years in different environmental management programmes including capacity building and knowledge sharing; development of environmental regulations and guidelines.
In a follow-up message, DrMafwenga extended his appreciation to all the support that NEMC has received from CSE in terms of technical assistance for development of various regulations, guidelines and capacity building programmes, both in India and Tanzania.
Speaking on the occasion, MsMagangaappreciated the outcome and opined that improving the health of Lake Victoria is the need of the hour as it impacts the livelihood and employment potential for many people living along the watershed. According to her, the partnership between CSE and NEMC will help the Government of Tanzania to provide clean air and water to its citizens. She highlighted this initiative as one of the interventions to implement the recently developed National Environmental Master Plan of Strategic Interventions (2022-2032).
A roadmap for Mwanza
The discussion paper released in July 2022 had identified Mwanzacity as a hotspot, contributing a substantial pollution load in the form of industrial effluents, domestic sewage and dumping of solid waste. It also recognised two rivers -- the Mirongo and the Nyashishi-- as the major waterbodiescarrying domestic and industrial pollution load, respectively. A team of CSE and NEMC conducted a sampling exercise in November 2022 to gauge the pollution situation in these rivers. The results shows substantial pollutant load in the rivers which may be getting discharged in the Lake.The water from the Nyashishiis being extensively used for agricultural purposes before it meets the Lake.
“The focus on the Nyashishi should now be doubled as any pollutant in the river alongwith affecting the water quality of Lake Victoria, may also adversely impact crops and human health,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, programmedirector, industrial pollution in CSE.
The released report highlights that only 3 per cent of households are connected to sewer lines managed by the Mwanza Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (MWAUWASA), while 93 per cent -- especially those living on the hills-- are dependent on onsite sanitation (pit latrine and septic tanks). MWAUWASA has initiated the process of connecting these households to the main sewer lines through a simplified sewerage system, but this could be a challenge considering the landscape of the area.
The improved systems will address the current practices of emptying the septic tanks through vacuum tankers or direct discharge into streams/drains during rains;these ultimately drain into the lake. Says Yadav: “CSE’s analysis shows that only 29 percent of the sewage (faecal sludge and wastewater) is safely managed; the rest might be going into waterbodies in some way.”
The report also highlights the fact that the city’s waste management practices have 70-80 percent waste collection efficiency. But since Mwanzalacks waste segregation practices (except for glass and plastic material), all the remaining waste is being dumped in the landfillor/and at undesignated dumpsites. The landfill site has two parts: the dumping site and sanitary landfill -- the latter is not used and all the mixed waste is thrown into the dumping site which does not have any liners.This could contribute to the leachate being discharged into the Nyashishi.
Needed: A holistic approach
Speaking at the release of the report, Roychowdhary said: “The issues associated with Lake Victoria are manifold and require holistic approach for improving the health of the lake. The approach to improve the lake’s water quality, in addition to treating pollution sources, should include aspects such as management of existing wetlands, developing waste management practices and pollution control systems along with continuous monitoring of waterbodies entering the Lake.”
While the report has been prepared for Mwanzacity keeping in mind the two major rivers, the Mirongo and the Nyashishithat discharge their waters into the lake, one needs to acknowledge that there arevarious other drains/streams discharging directly into the lake. Identification and mapping of these drains/streams is critical to provide an understanding of the distribution of discharge points and for categorising the areas of concern that would requireprioritised interventions, Roychowdhuryadded.
Mwanzashould also focus on improving the functioning of the current waste stabilisation pond which lacks regular maintenance: this has reduced its efficiency. Additionally, it should consider adopting other techniques like a gulper system to transport faecal sludge from the hills;households located on the hills cannot be easily connected to the sewer system. The proposed roadmap has envisaged Mwanza as a zero-landfill site by strengthening the waste segregation and recycling practices and reducing the waste disposal at the landfill.
“The proposed water quality monitoring network will aid in regulating and monitoring the status and trends of water quality in the Lake,” said DrMenanH Jangu, Director of Research at NEMC. However, this can only be possible with the integration and collaboration of various entities such as NEMC, Lake Victoria Basin Water Board (LVBWB), TAFIRI, LGAs and other conservationists without forgetting international development partners, he added.
Release of ToRsfor mining and industrial projects
CSE and NEMC are also working towards strengthening the environmental impact assessment regime in Tanzania – a ‘Terms of Reference’ for mining and industrial development projects was released during the meet. “The purpose of these ToRas is to enable the project proponentwith the support of environmental experts to do proper planning and designing of an EIA. A ToR is designed to provide a format and structure for the EIA report, especially on the data required, to ascertain the impacts of the project on people and the environment.
“This will help improve the quality of the EIA report and facilitate the review and decision making processes to become more transparent and easy,” said DrMafwenga.
MoU signing between CSE and NEMC
CSE’s association with NEMC goes back to 2017, when the first MoUwas signed to strengthen compliance and enforcement programmesthrough capacity building projects. These projects included assisting NEMC in developing monitoring and compliance tools for different industrial sectors, assistance in framing environmental regulations, guidelines, procedures, inspection manuals and standards, and need-based research and knowledge dissemination.
The collaboration provided an opportunity to CSE to work with NEMC in strengthening implementation of the EMA Act of 2004. CSE also worked with NEMC on EIA guidelines for the building construction and transmission line projects.
The two organisations have now decided to renew the MoUto accommodate changes in the current environmental requirements. Jagdeep Gupta, Executive Director, CSE and DrMafwengasigned the MoU to work together to reinforce the EIA regime, share assistance in framing environmental regulations, guidelines, procedures, monitoring manuals and standards, develop an environmental management strategy for Lake Victoria,and initiate capacity building programmes and exposure visits.
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