KAMPALA (Reuters) - Pollution in parts of Lake Victoria is worsening so fast that soon it may be impossible to treat its waters enough to provide drinking water for the Ugandan capital, a senior official said Monday.
The lake, east Africa’s largest by area, also supplies water to millions in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, and supports fishing communities in all three countries.
Gerald Sawula, deputy executive director of Uganda’s state-run National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), told Reuters that the lake’s Murchison Bay, the northerly inlet on which Kampala sits, was becoming a “dead” zone.
“It is a real crisis, the water has turned completely green with algae blooms swamping the whole place,” he said.
“The water has become so thick from effluent that is being discharged directly into the lake because the wetlands that used to filter it have all been destroyed by developers.”
Fisheries experts say heavy concentrations of pollutants are killing certain fish species.
“As more algal blooms, phosphates, nitrates, heavy metals and fecal matter all pile into the lake, it’s going to be harder and harder to clean the water,” Sawula said.
“It’s very obvious that in future the National Water and Sewerage Corporation won’t be able to treat water from Lake Victoria to a level safe enough for domestic consumption.”
The local daily New Vision reported Monday that the utility was considering extending intake pipes far out into the lake as pollution near the shore exceeds treatable levels.
Development analysts say the pollution problem will only worsen as Kampala’s population, estimated at 2.5 million, expands fast, straining its fragile and perennially underfinanced waste-handling capacity.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Kevin Liffey