Transport on Lake Victoria: its impact on the ecosystem

Photo by Henry Lubulwa 

The residents of Kalangala on September 6th, 2015 were relieved to have a second ferry MV Ssese ply the Masaka -Kalangala route launched by President Museveni managed by Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS).  In 2009 KIS signed an agreement with the government of Uganda, to manage transport services on Lake Victoria. They promised to have two ferries, one MV Pearl which plied the Masaka -Kalangala route was brought 3 years ago broke down (August, 2012) after maintenance done in Kisumu, Kenya it was brought back on September 2nd, 2015. MV Ssese has special features to prevent MV Pearl break down (propellers getting stuck in fish nets), it has the capability of demarcating routes, 375 horsepower making the Masaka – Kalangala route in 20 minutes while MV Pearl can make the same route in 30 minutes, it carries 180 passengers and 20 saloon cars pay trip. Both ferries make 10 trips a day, making 4,900 trips a year. MV Ssese is the best model in Uganda and Lake Victoria says John Opiro KIS Managing Director.  With such features accidents on Lake Victoria can be eliminated. In 1996 MV Bukoba sank near the port of Bukoba, Tanzania with 600 people, it is the worst ever disaster on Lake Victoria.  Two cargo ships (MV Kabalega and MV Kaawa) collided 51 nautical miles from Port Bell, all the 25 crewmen were rescued, MV Kabalega couldn’t be saved as it sunk in the 84 meters deep Africa’s largest fresh water lake.

Introduction of an alien (Ferry) in a natural setting (lake) will affect it and its surrounding; the following will be affected land, air and water. 
This is common when water is used to cool the exhaust and discharged, the water will have a shiny layer and sometimes oil. This layer prevents aeration of water, for lake organisms that need to feed on the surface of water are affected. Passengers sometimes during the trips throw unwanted stuff in the water. The movement of ferries produces under water noise that affects life in the lake. A research done by Santa Barbara’s Fishing Industry claimed that fish population decreased due to propeller and anchor chain noises. Heat is a form of energy that can only be transferred not destroyed, ferry routes will have different temperatures (High) from the rest of lake, temperatures that will not permit water life to flourish.  Just imagine the damage to the ecosystem where MV Kabalega sunk, it was never removed and there are no plans of removing the wreckage.
The movement of vessels in water produces waves; their height, number and steepness are determined by the speed (20 to 30 minutes Masaka – Kalangala route, 4,900 trips a year) and the size of the vessel (180 passengers and 20 saloon cars pay trip). This leads to onshore and offshore wash of sediments to and from lake shores disrupting fish breeding. During the undocking and docking of the 4,900 trips a year propelled ferries like MV Ssese and MV Pearl cause stirring of sediment destroying and disrupting water life. Most lake shores are polluted with heavy metals that settle on the lake bed the stirring increases the chances of further pollution into deep waters. 
Ferry exhaust emissions are going to be added to the drivers of global warming and climate change in Uganda, an estimation of 537.1 Kilogram carbon dioxide eq per journey (P&O Ferries), there are 4,900 trips made a year. The above statistics will strain the already difficult to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.  A Blue Water study of San Francisco bay shows that marine diesels are dirtier than bus and car. Vessel movement especially during the undocking and docking produce a lot of noise this has affected the use of beaches and noise produced scare away water animals. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) finalized regulations to prevent air pollution from Ships (ferries), included in the Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 73/78, Uganda signed and accepted the treaty on the 30th June 2009.

By Kateregga Dennis, BA(ECON), Dip. IEL 


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