Mechanical removal of water hyacinth from Lake Victoria is set to start after the Ministry of Environment finalised procurement of the Sh81 million hyacinth harvester.
The harvester, which was procured in 2013 through the World Bank funded Lake Victoria Environment Management Project (LVEMP) II, has been lying idle at the shores of the lake as the weed continued to wreak havoc.
Environment Principal Secretary (PS) Dr.Chris Kiptoo said the delay to operationalize the harvester was occasioned by a standoff between the Ministry of Environment and the supplier over some components of the machine which were missing.
“There were contractual issues between the ministry and the supplier and we had to bring in the Ministry of Finance, the Attorney General’s Office and our ministry to resolve them first,” he said.
Speaking at Kisumu Port on Friday where he handed over the machine alongside two tippers all valued at Sh101 million to the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) to kick off mechanical removal of the weed, Dr. Kiptoo said the move would conserve the lake and at the same time open it up for transport.
“Lake Victoria is an important resource but its utilization has been greatly hampered by this invasive weed,” he said.
He said LBDA, which works in a number of counties within the lake region, was better placed to manage the machine to ensure that the weed is completely eradicated.
The PS added that the ministry would employ other means among them biological control of the hyacinth which is ongoing to rid the lake of the noxious weed.
He said his ministry has stepped up measures to control pollution within the lake which he noted was to blame for the rapid spread of the weed in the lake.
“We have held meeting with institutions which were identified as the leading pollutants in this area and I am glad to report that they have put in place measures to control the menace,” he said.
Dr. Kiptoo added that the government has rolled out a tree planting drive to boost tree cover in the country adding that the move would curb washing down of soil from the lake basin which has contributed to pollution of the lake.
“We have chemicals and nutrients which are washed into the lake and provide nutrients to the water hyacinth,” he said.
Northern Corridor Principal Secretary (PS) Margaret Mwakima who accompanied Dr. Kiproo received the equipment alongside LBDA Chairman Cavince Odoyo and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Raymond Omollo.
Mwakima said eradication of the weed required a multi-agency approach and urged the relevant bodies tasked with the responsibility to join hands in the drive.
Control of organic flow from the catchment into the lake, she said, was an area that required urgent attention to curb further pollution of the lake.
On his part, the LBDA Chairman said the body would work closely with county governments bordering the lake and other bodies engaged in removing the water hyacinth to make the campaign a success.
Odoyo said consultations shall be held with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Environment on how best to dispose of the weed.
The water hyacinth was reported in the lake in 1990 and has continued to wreak havoc posing a threat to aquatic life and economic activities within the water body.
By Chris Mahandara