The harmful floating aquatic Water Hyacinth weed is a serious threat to thousands of humans and animals living in and near the waters of Lake Mutirikwi and its tributaries. But help is at hand reports REGERAI TUKUTUKU.
Friends for Lakes and Rivers of Zimbabwe Organisation has embarked on a multi-million dollar project to remove the water hyacinth choking Lake Mutirikwi and its tributaries in Masvingo.
The harmful floating aquatic weed is a serious threat to humans and animals alike, and the lake is one of the worst affected water bodies in the country.
The country’s largest inland lake had been so badly affected that half of it was overtaken by the weed. Tributaries like the Mutirikwi, Mucheke, Shakashe and Popoteke rivers, among others, had all been turned into green belts of weed that were harming aquatic life and negatively affecting humans.
Masvingo residents watched helplessly as the weed spread like wildfire, bearing in mind that Masvingo gets all its water from Lake Mutirikwi. Even city fathers became mere spectators without a clue of how to tackle the water hyacinth problem.
The city council had further fuelled the problem by discharging raw sewerage into rivers that feed into Lake Mutirikwi.
Garikai Madzokere, the projects engineer of Friends of Rivers and Lakes, said the NGO had embarked on a fundraising campaign in order to clear all of Masvingo’s rivers and dams of the water hyacinth weed.
“Our aim is to make sure that all the rivers in the province are cleared. We embarked on a fundraising exercise in which we collect scrap metal for recycling into new products. “We cannot continue to import items from other countries when we can recycle our own scrap metal and come up with new products,” he said.
In addition to cleaning the rivers, the NGO has also created employment for Masvingo residents. David Nhare, who lives in Mucheke suburb, said he was employed by the NGO and was happy to work in an environment where the sole aim was to make sure that human beings and animals have clean water.
“We all need to contribute to our communities and this is exactly what we are doing by making sure that people get clean water,” he said.
The Mayor of Masvingo, Hubert Fidze, said he was very happy with the work being done by NGOs because the council lacked the required expertise and financial muscle to deal with the water hyacinth problem.
There have been concerns countrywide as to who should fund the clearing of this harmful aquatic weed. Ideally it should have been the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) who shouldered the burden, but they do not have the funds to undertake the job and have left it to individual local authorities. As a result many water supplies are now under severe threat.
Masvingo residents, especially the city dwellers now have every reason to smile. “We are very happy that the source of water to the city has been cleaned after so many years. We thought that maybe ZINWA would charge the residents to clear away the water hyacinth, but this NGO came to our rescue,” said Mafios Makiti, 60, of Mucheke.
The water hyacinth infests rivers, lakes, dams and even irrigation canals in some countries.
The weed destroys aquatic environments and annually costs billions of dollars globally to control.
The floating weed reduces water quality due to decomposing plants and restricts animals and human beings from accessing water, especially in Africa. Experts say it reduces the level of oxygen in water and also changes the habitat of aquatic organisms.
However it is a pleasure to report that life has been breathed back into Lake Mutirikwi and its tributaries, bringing health to thousands of people and animals in Masvingo province.