While recently in Naivasha, I thought to take a quick look around. This decision landed me at Lake Naivasha. As usual, the breathtaking beauty of this freshwater lake, never stops to blow my mind away.
For the first time though, I was shocked to see the dreaded Water Hyacinth – this surely must be the last thing this Lake, declared a Ramsar site, needed. After all the woes it has endured, one would hope it can get a respite – just this once. How sad. Indeed scientists now warn that if something is not done soon to reverse this trend, Lake Naivasha may disappear altogether as an ecosystem within the next 20 years.
Over-fishing at the lake is at its peak, not to mention the introduction of alien invasive species, abstraction of water for irrigation in the large-scale flower and horticultural farms, geothermal power generation, wetland reclamation, diversion of water upstream, clearance of papyrus vegetation, among a host of other problems.
But the Hyacinth, I had not seen before – perhaps it is because I had never come to this side of the Lake or maybe it had not been visible the other times I have been here. But right now, besides the water fern (Salvinia molesta), the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) poses the greatest threat to the Lake’s ecosystem.
Apparently the water hyacinth is not the first invasive menace Naivasha has known. The water fern, which originated from Brazil, was introduced in Naivasha in 1962 as an ornamental plant to beautify ponds and pools. By 1970, it had spread into shallow bays and lagoons around the lake. The introduction of a beetle, Cyrtobagous salviniae, also a native of Brazil, has controlled the infestation of the water fern.
The water hyacinth has been here for the last decade, taking over from the fern – and like its predecessor, it is expanding rapidly. Regarded as the world’s worst aquatic weed, the water hyacinth originated from Venezuela in South America. The weed multiplies rapidly and can double its population in 12 days (Prof Steven Njuguna).
With this kind of expansion, Lake Naivasha, whose basin is regarded as one of the world’s finest aviaries in addition to providing a backdrop of great bird watching and game viewing, among other tourist activities including sports fishing, water skiing and camping, may soon be a thing we only learn in history and geography books.
To say the least, it came as a shock to me on seeing this green plant that is choking Lake Victoria and other famous lakes in Kenya. Is there no beetle, bee, wasp or something that can keep this thing in check? Let me know if there is. You can leave your suggestions by commenting below.
Great article, I live in Naivasha and run a healthcare organization that has a special focus on people living with HIV and Aids (NACOHAG). We have a support group that meets on a monthly basis and we would like to start an income generating project for the support group. The project involves using the water Hyacinth to make environmental friendly furniture, Mats, etc. We have already done the feasibility study by visiting Lake Victoria and been taken through the process of harvesting the water Hyacinth, treatment and the final products. We need to train our support group members on the same. We shall be taking care of the environment as well as securing the livelihoods of the support group members through the income generating activity.
Thanks Pauline for your comment. We wish you all the best in your initiative.