Protecting Lake Victoria from plastic pollution

Protecting Lake Victoria from plastic pollution

THE protection and conservation of the environment have a special significance for the survival of living organisms on earth in order to facilitate safety and a healthy environment for those organisms to survive.

As the environment deteriorates, the government and communities spend huge amounts of funds on restoring it and at the same time mitigating the effects of damaged ecosystems and biodiversity.

About 76 percent of the rural population depends on natural resources for their livelihood and 95 percent of the energy comes from wood as soil fertility continues to decline, forest and clean water decrease too.

Various researches have shown that about $1bn/- is lost each year due to declining of forest products, fisheries and wildlife due to environmental degradation.

The results of various studies indicate that the problems will be even greater in future if environmental degradation will not be addressed, especially in the light of climate change.

If environmental degradation is left unchecked will cause serious consequences to living things in the rivers, lakes and seas, where serious strategy is required to reduce the burden of environmental degradation, including pollution of Lake Victoria.

That situation has made the management of Mwanza- based nongovernmental organization, the Environmental Management and Economic Development Organization (EMEDO) that was formed as a response to the environmental, social and economic challenges facing the Lake Victoria region, to establish Beat Plastic Campaign as a part of a strategy to combat Lake Victoria pollution, mainly caused by plastic products.

The EMEDO Executive Director, Ms Editrudith Lu- kanga says the campaign was officially launched in April this year in Mwanza when her organization welcomed Flipflop plastic boats, which was coming through Kisumu to Jinja and then Mwanza for community expedition for creating awareness about the campaign.

“The expedition was calling for community and policymakers in East Africa to unite and advocate for reducing plastic pollution in Lake Victoria of which some researchers have indicated about the impact of pollution on the lake,” she says.

She says Flipflopi is an official partner of the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP)-driven Clean Seas Campaign, an initiative that works with governments, businesses and citizens towards the goal of eliminating the use of disposable plastics and protecting oceans, lakes and rivers.

She says the Flipflopi Seas expedition that was held in 2019, sparked new commitments to the global clean seas initiatives from Lake Victoria Basin countries of Tanzania and Uganda, joining Kenya in global commitments to re- verse the damage of plastic pollution to the communities that depend on the lake.

“Through the Lake Victoria expedition, Flipflop and UNEP help to drive further commitments by East African nations to reduce single-use plastic while promoting circular economy,” she says.

She adds that upon the arrival of the boat, the EME- DO team and Mwanza City Council environmental team made a wonderful community awareness movement along the major fish market situated along Lake Victoria.

“The team went to Mkuyu- ni and Kirumba fish markets where they met fishermen, fish traders (women and men), farmers, food venders, distributors and other actors on the fishing business chain and sparked them with the plastic pollution campaign,” she explained.

She says it was a great opportunity to meet many fishermen and fish traders at the same place; they even requested such kind of an activity to be done frequently as a way of sparking knowledge and awareness on plastic pollution since they are among agents of water pollution.

She says the organization has taken steps to spearhead that campaign by directly engaging stakeholders and community, calling for community awareness on waste management, especially from the household level.

She says they used different approaches in forwarding the campaign in the community, such as community sensitization meeting, launching of EMEDO environment resource center, community clean up events, training to community-based organizations, youth groups and school clubs on waste operation and brand audit, dialogues, research, engagement of schools clubs and local leaders.

She says that for the last five months the organization successfully formed 10 school clubs, conducted 20 community meetings, trained 100 members of CBO’s and youth groups on waste separation and brand audit, conducted three stakeholders meetings/ dialogue and 16 community clean up events.

“I see as an organization, it is our responsibility to ensure that Lake Victoria is free from plastic pollution,” she says.

In terms of the natural resources in Lake Victoria, she says the campaign is also looking at how fish resources can help fishermen economically without being damaged by plastic pollution in the precious lake.

She says the campaign also focused on preserving the environment, which has faced many challenges posed by the increase of population around the lake and their economic activities as well.

“In order to spearhead the campaign we developed our motto, which states ‘Ziwa Letu, Uchumi wetu, Kazi iendelee’, she says adding that the organization works with the government and fishermen community to ensure Lake Victoria is free from plastic damage.

She mentioned the environmental issues the expedition aimed to address include the global plastic crisis where five trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

She clarifies that in total, half of all plastics produced is designed to be used only once and thrown away, and up to 12.7million tons of plastic wastes enter into oceans every year and marine animals ingest or are entangled by that debris causing injury and deaths.

“By 2050, it is estimated that the ocean will have more plastics than fish by weight and micro plastics and the many harmful pollutants and chemicals they absorb from the environment are con- sumed by fish, which are later consumed by humans,” she says.

She notes that according to a study conducted in 2015 on Lake Victoria, micro plastics were found in 20 percent (one in five) of the fish tested (Nile Perch and Nile Tilapia) .

“Micro plastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm at the longest edge, and are of- ten the result of a breakdown

of larger plastic products and were also recorded in the sur- face of water of Lake Victoria and on the shores and in the sediment of northern lake Victoria,” she says adding that organization expected outcome is to contributing to change community mindset on waste management and environment conservations.

Mwanza Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Robert Gabriel praises the organization for its efforts to protect the environment and Lake Victoria where he urged other organizations to emulate ex- amples shown by the EMEDO organization.

A third year student from St Augustine University of Tanzania studying for a bachelor degree in sociology, Happiness Felix says she has used creativity and created a sample of the Tanzanian national flag through plastic materials and handed it to the Mwanza RC Mr Gabriel with the EME- DO team.

“The national flag that I designed is what should be done to those wastes instead of being thrown out and therefore becoming pollutants to the environment,” she says, adding that plastic materials like bottles normally appear to pollute both water the environment and reduce land fertility.

She says while they are in the progress of reducing plastic pollution, it is also an opportunity to youth and other people to tap the opportunity, be creative in using the plastic wastes and create income.

“This situation refers to implementing the circular economy together with protecting the blue economy which is also a base for the growth of our nation’s economy,” she says.

The EMEDO Project Coordinator, Mr Arthur Mugema says the organization has also established a home garden to teenagers, where they are growing leafy vegetables through plastics equipment, where its origin was the beat pollution campaign.

“Apart from leafy vegetables, we have made different flowers using plastic products and we are selling them to get incomes,” he says

The SAUT SEMA Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Mataro says they are cooperating with EMEDO for the environmental cleaning campaign where they established the EMEDO learning resource center which will be used in educating the public on the importance of protecting the environment.

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Author: From NASHON KENNEDY in Mwanza

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