No place on earth holds such a variety of life. Lake Tanganyika harbours over 2000 different species, of which more than half are found nowhere else. Its jellyfish, fish and molluscs so much resemble marine species that early researchers assumed the lake was connected to the sea. Now, we know that it never was, but that the rifting of the continent and 12 million years have spawned an amazing array of species with a stunning likeness to marine species - by chance.
There are four protected areas bordering Lake Tanganyika: Rusizi Natural Reserve in Burundi (a Ramsar Site), Gombe Stream National Park (home of Jane Goodall's chimpanzees) and Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania and Nsumbu National Park in Zambia.
The fisheries of Lake Tanganyika are based on only six of those species, two sardine fish and four Lates species. The catch is nonetheless enormous, providing direct employment to 100,000 people and a livelihood to ten times that many. The lake furthermore provides direct access to clean drinking water and is an important route for trade between and beyond the riparian countries. The surrounding forests are used for firewood, charcoal and many non-timber products. The lake is vital to the estimated 10 million people living in the basin.
The question is how long the lake will remain the source of life for its species and people if action is not taken. The use of destructive fishing gears and over fishing threaten to deplete the fish stocks. Pollution from domestic and industrial wastes is increasing. Abattoirs, breweries, paint industry, and battery manufacturers in Burundi's capital and the many smaller cities surrounding the lake release their untreated water directly into the lake. Large quantities of sediment are being deposited in the lake due to deforestation and tillage practices. Invasive species in the lake are on the increase. In general, the lake suffers from uncontrolled and unplanned development.
Planning the future
The Governments of Burundi, Democratic Republic Congo, Tanzania and Zambia are developing a legal convention for the management of Tanganyika's shared resources. The text is being finalized before it begins the ratification process.
The riparian nations collaborated on a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis and produced a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) as part of a GEF/UNDP intervention. The SAP, a series of national actions in support of regional conservation and sustainable management goals, prioritizes the most urgent interventions in pollution control, sediment control and fisheries management. The riparian countries are currently developing detailed project proposals to address these priorities.
The Lake Tanganyika project will work at the regional and national level to set common goals and implement specific actions for the sustainable management of the Lake's water resources. At the regional level, the project will:
- Improve information exchange between research institutes and the riparian states
- Monitor the resources and state of the lake
- Set common criteria for acceptable level of sediments, pollution, and water quality in general
- Support the ratification of the convention
- Design and establish a lake basin management authority
At the national level, the project will:
- Control pollution in Burundi, mainly in the capital city Bujumbura, through the treatment of wastewater and solid waste
- Control water hyacinth
- Control sediments in Congo and Tanzania by improved catchment management, for instance through reafforestation, fuel efficient stoves, and improved charcoal making techniques
- Control pollution of domestic wastewater in Tanzania
- Develop alternative livelihoods
Partners of the project are the Governments of Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, UNDP/GEF, African Development Bank, IUCN, UNOPS
Duration and cost
The project is scheduled to take 5 years at a total cost of US$ 27 million.