DAR ES SALAAM — Tanzanian Vice President Philip Mpango on Thursday called on countries sharing Lake Tanganyika to take bold steps aimed at reversing environmental degradation facing the lake, the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world.
Mpango said Lake Tanganyika’s riparian countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania should unite toward the conservation of the biodiversity of the lake. Addressing the 9th meeting of the Conference of Ministers of the Lake Tanganyika Authority in Kigoma region, Mpango said biodiversity of the lake is being lost at an alarming rate through human-induced activities such as unsustainable agricultural and fishing practices, water pollution, and deforestation.
“Agricultural and pastoral activities, for instance, have led to increased land cover loss, bank erosion, sedimentation, increased peak flows, decreased base flow, and contamination of groundwater sources,” said the vice president.
He said all ports along the lake often face limited access challenges due to accumulated sedimentation.
“This Lake and its basin is home to more than 10 million people, over 250 species of cichlids, and more than 2,000 different species of plants and animals, of which half of these species are found nowhere else in the world,” said Mpango.
He added that the lake is estimated to have the potential to produce more than 1.5 million metric tons of fish annually, but only 580,000 metric tons are effectively harvested due to environmental degradation.
Mpango said declines in fish catch have long been attributed to overfishing and weak enforcement of regulations.