Water weed threatens fish, tourism in Kazinga Channel

Boat cruise on Kazinga channel

A rapidly spreading water weed known as water hyacinth (scientifically called pontederia crassipes) is becoming a problem in the Kazinga channel, which connects lakes Edward and George within the Queen Elizabeth national park and conservation area.

Over the past two years, the weed, initially appearing in small portions, has multiplied, forming large patches that float along the banks of the channel.

The Kazinga channel is a crucial breeding ground for fish in lakes Edward and George, providing a livelihood for eleven fishing communities within the Queen Elizabeth national park. Moreover, the channel is home to hippos, crocodiles, birds and elephants, serving as a significant attraction for tourists who enjoy boat cruises while observing these animals.

However, officials are concerned that if no action is taken, the water weed could disrupt the channel’s ecosystem in the near future. The weed consumes oxygen in the water, depriving fish of their necessary resources and ultimately reducing fish breeding.

To address this issue, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) will collaborate with other relevant entities to find solutions. Laban Musinguzi, a researcher from the national fisheries department, has recommended mechanical removal and the introduction of water hyacinth weevils to control the spread of this invasive weed.

Previously, similar methods were employed by the government to remove water hyacinth in Lake Victoria and parts of Lake Kyoga. Meanwhile, UWA has initiated the installation of solar-powered electric fences around the Queen Elizabeth conservation area to prevent animals, particularly elephants, lions, and leopards, from damaging crops, killing livestock, and posing threats to local communities.

Selvest Masereka, the assistant warden of community protection, stated that the electric fencing initiative began in Rubirizi district, focusing on problem animal hotspots, and has shown success with a five-kilometer stretch. Inspired by this, an additional 29.2 kilometers of fencing will be constructed in Kasese district, and plans are underway to extend the fencing by 64 kilometers across Kasese, Rubirizi, and Kitagwenda districts.

The electric wire fence system was adopted from Kenya, particularly from Nairobi national park, where it has been implemented successfully. The electric current flowing through the wire fence repels animals upon contact, delivering a shock but not causing harm.

The solar-powered stations, equipped with 100-amp capacity solar panels and 200-amp batteries, generate 12 volts. Energizers within the stations convert this voltage into 10,000 volts, producing a repulsive current that shocks animals on contact. Each power station covers a five-kilometer stretch.

Notably, the wire fence initiative provides employment opportunities for locals involved in technical operations and the maintenance of the fenced areas. This fencing project aligns with UWA’s objective of improving household incomes within the region through pro-conservation strategies.

Source: The Observer

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