Government seeking help to control ‘Enboch’ infestation on Lake Tana

Bernabas Shiferaw
May 25, 2020

The agency for the protection and development of water resources has called on other institutions to contribute to the efforts of controlling Enboch (Water Hyacinth) infestation at Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. Although various methods have been adopted to free the lake from this paste at different times, the infestation still poses a serious threat to the lake, the surrounding community, and the Nile basin. 

Lake Tana holds 50 percent of Ethiopia’s fresh water. It shelters around 28 species of fish, of which 21 are endemic. According to a 2017 estimate, the lake’s potential for fish production amounts to 13,000 tons annually. 

Originally from South America, Enboch (known as Eichhornia crassipes in the scientific world), appeared in Ethiopia several years before. By 2011, it was already labeled the most dangerous paste posing a threat to the lake covering about 20,000 hectares of the lake’s shore. 

Enboch directly threatens both the lake and its inhabitants. It deprives aquatic plants and animals of sunlight and oxygen. It also restricts water flow and is an obstacle to all kinds of economic activities including fishing, navigation, power generation, and irrigation. 

By 2017, the infestation covered 50,000 hectares of the shore. Since then several methods had been announced, from a biological one to another that involved the use of ICT, as being employed to control the infestation. Reports, however, show that the most effective effort so far has come from the surrounding community. 

Despite these efforts, the infestation persisted and even got worse. In the current Ethiopian year, the infestation expanded to the water part of the lake, covering 1,000 hectares of it. 

The matter also touches upon, among other things, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) over which Ethiopia and Egypt have recently gotten into an intense diplomatic strife. 

Lake Tana contributes 60 percent of Nile’s water. Thus, officials say, the Enboch infestation poses a threat not just to the community surrounding the lake or Ethiopians at large but also to populations of Sudan and Egypt who are directly or indirectly dependent on the Nile for their survival. Reports show that the infestation has already spread to parts of the Nile.

The government had announced its resolution to completely free the lake of the paste by the end of the current Ethiopian year. Dr. Ayalew Wonde, the head of the government agency in charge of the matter, told AL-Ain that although the infestation has not grown worse in previous months, the work done so far has not been as effective as planned. If not urgently controlled, Dr. Ayalew said, it is possible that it might reach the GERD. Thus, as much attention and urgency must be attached to controlling the infestation as is being attached to the GERD. 

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