FOR the safety of people living along the Lake Victoria shores, local authorities in Kagera region have banned people from swimming in the lake, whose water level has increased.
Kagera Regional Police Commander (RPC), Assistant Commissioner Revocatus Malimi told reporters during a press conference in his office that in recent weeks, water levels in Lake Victoria have reached unprecedented heights as a result of heavy rains in the East African region, which started in August 2019.
RPC Malimi explained that as millions of Muslims worldwide will today celebrate Eid al-Adha, an Islamic religious festival commemorating Prophet Abraham’s faithfulness to God after being tested with the unfulfilled command to sacrifice his son. The holiday also marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
“As Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Ad- ha, people are warned to avoid swimming along the Lake Victoria beaches. Also, people must take necessary precaution against the Covid-19 pandemic through social distancing, wearing face masks, and handwashing with running water,” he said.
Mr Malimi dispelled fears of insecurity during this festive season, saying the government has laid concrete strategies to ensure peace prevails. He assured residents of the peaceful festive season, adding that security has been beefed up.
However, he advised the residents to leave someone of their families members at home, during outdoor festivities for security of their homes.
Equally, he also cautioned drivers to avoid speeding and excessive drinking while on the wheel.
He appealed to residents to uphold existing peace and tranquility especially at this time when people celebrate Eid al-Ad- ha. “My appeal to all residents is to ensure that national interest prevails. We must ensure that the prevailing peace and tranquility is sustained,” he said.
According to the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), the lake hit a new record level of 13.42 meters – marginally higher than the 13.41-meter mark recorded in 1964.
The rising water levels have been devastating, particularly for those living close to the lake and depend on it. Floodwaters swamped farmland, inundated homes, and displaced tens of thousands of people.
Radar altimetry data indicate that Lake Victoria water levels reached 1137.29 meters (3731.27 feet) above mean sea level on May 19, 2021, a high for satellite data re- cords that date to 1992.
Lake Victoria supports the livelihoods of over 35 million people and is crucial for many sectors. The lake supports fisheries, agriculture (through irrigation), hydropower, domestic water supply and industry.
The lake is also an important tourist destination and provides the habitat for many key species – such as endemic cichlid fishes, birds, and sitatunga antelopes.