Strategy for managing pollution in Lake Victoria proposed at CSE-NEMC meeting

Center for Science and Environment (CSE), Indiaand the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), Tanzaniajointly release Discussion Paper in Dar es Salaam on Development of the Environmental Management Strategy towards Sustaining Ecological Integrity of Lake Victoria 

Strategy formulated through consultative meeting with stakeholders, held on July 11, 2022at Mwanza in Tanzania 

On July 14-15, 2022, Pan-Africa meeting in Dar es Salaam will discuss how to strengthen the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process in Africa 

All these events are being organised jointly by the NEMC of Tanzania and CSE 

July 13-14, 2022, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania): Lake Victoria, one of the world’s largest lakes spanning three countries in Africa, supports livelihoods of about 45 million people. A collaborative analysis (of earlier studies)done by India-based think tank and research body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), Tanzaniaindicates thatover the past five decades, the Lake and its unique ecosystem have been under severe pressure from and threatened by a variety of unsustainable human activities and the impacts of climate change. 

Titled Development of Environmental Management Strategy towards Sustaining Ecological Integrity of Lake Victoria, the analysis and discussion paper was released here on July 13 at a meeting jointly convened by CSE and NEMC. This meeting followed a stakeholders’ round table held in Mwanza, which was also jointly organised by the two bodies. 

A monitoring and research team from CSE, headed by the Centre’s director general (and a renowned environmental thinker and writer) SunitaNarain is in Tanzania to conduct and coordinate,with the Director General of the NEMC,these meetings and the launching process of the Discussion Paper. 

In her introductory remarks, SunitaNarainappreciated the collaborative work between CSE and NEMCspanning almost five years in different environmental management programmes, including capacity building and knowledge sharing. She was impressed by the broad environmental measures taken by the government of Tanzania, including the enforcement of plastic ban regulations, which has helped the country curb plastic pollution. She also noted the efforts made by the government on ensuring sustainable city programmes through Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which is affordable for the poor and also convenient for the rich. 

In a follow-up message, NEMC’s Director General Dr Samuel G Mafwengaextended his appreciation to all the support that NEMC has received from CSE in terms of technical assistance for development of various guidelines and capacity building programmes. 

The Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office, Hon Dr SelemaniJafo appreciated the collaborative efforts between the two institutions (CSE and NEMC), which reflects the long-term friendship between the Government of India and Tanzania. He further acknowledged the initiative to develop the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Strategy as an important step for sustaining ecological integrity of the Lake. He highlighted this initiative as one of the interventions to implement the recently developed National Environmental Master Plan of Strategic Intervention (2022/2032). 

Mwanza: An area for prioritisation
Analysis of existing data identifies some rivers including the Mirongoand the Nyashishias the major waterbodieswitha significant discharge of pollution load into the Lake. These rivers are the recipients of discharged effluents from municipal and industrial activities. 

The stakeholders’ round table held in Mwanza had focussed on understanding the pollution potential of each source and the remedial measures.“Considering the extent of pollution, Mwanza was selected for introducing various pollution control measures which could later be replicated in other hotspots,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution in CSE. This would involve tracking Mirongo and Nyashishirivers, identifying sources responsible for pollution and providing point source treatment/control, he added. 

The majority of the urban population in Mwanza depends on on-site sanitation systems (pit latrines and septic tanks). These systems are managed by the Mwanza Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (MWAUWASA), and their contents discharged into a waste stabilisation pond. 

However, households with unimproved facilities, particularly those living in the informal settlements on steep slopesand rocky areas, are affected by the regular filling up and flooding of shallow latrines, and rely on informal pit emptying. To combat this issue, MWAUWASA has developed a Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS) to handle the sewage. 

Needed: A holistic approach
Speaking at the release of the Discussion Paper, Narain said: “The issues associated with Lake Victoria are manifold and requires 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 the existing wetlands,developing waste management practices and pollution control systems along with continuous monitoring of waterbodies entering the Lake.” 

However, the primary step is to identify and map the various rivers, streams and drains that have their outfalls into the Lake. This will help in providing a broad understanding of the distribution of discharge points and hence, in categorising the areas of concern that would require micro action plans, she added. 

“The proposed strategy will assist entities such as NEMC, Lake Victoria Basin Water Board (LVBWB), TAFIRI, LGAs and other conservationists in developing a broad-based understanding of the status and trends of water quality in the Lake,” said Dr MenanJangu, Director of Research, NEMC. Subsequently, proper interventions will be developed to improve the environmental conditions of the Lake. This can only be possible if all stakeholders including the public are actively involved, he added. 

The launched Discussion Paper has laid down a roadmap for a strategy aimed at improving water quality of Lake Victoria and making its use sustainable. Its content, therefore, focuses on the water quality and environmental problems that the Lake faces.A long-term environmental strategy for the Lake would include adopting different approaches for treating industrial discharge and scientifically disposing of sewage and solid waste. In its next phase, the strategy would try to ensure that all streams and tributaries entering Lake Victoria are monitored on a regular basis for key parameters.The collected data will guide on the informed decision in the management programmes of the Lake Victoria basin. 

Strengtheningthe EIA process in Africa 
On July 14-15, CSE would be releasing another report -- Environmental Impact Assessment: Evaluation of legislations in countries of Africa and South Asia – at a meeting in Dar es Salaam. Said Yadav: “Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a decision-making support tool to assess the impacts of various projects on the environment. This meeting is being organised to understand how good the EIA system is in African and South Asian countries, and how to strengthen it further. The meeting will be attended by various African regulators.” 

The report examines five significant indicators whose integration ensures a robust EIA system. These indicators also take into account environmental and social impact mitigation aspects. As EIA is backed by legislations, CSE has analysed different EIA processes—screening, scoping, preparation of draft EIA, public hearing and compliance mechanism etc—of different countries under their respective legislations. 

Yadav added: “The report attempts to analyse whether the respective legislations have enough teeth to implement these processes effectively on the ground. Its findings will enable governments to strengthen their EIA systems and move towards their effective implementation.”