U.S. Water News Online
SHIRE RIVER, Malawi -- Water hyacinths have been a problem
in Lake Victoria.
A water weed is threatening to choke Malawi's largest river.
Water hyacinths have spread across a large section of the Shire
River, according to a report by the country's Fisheries Department.
The Shire, an outlet of Lake Malawi which pours into the Zambezi
River in Mozambique, is not only used for fishing and transport -- it
is also a major source of hydro-electric power.
Fisheries Director Shaibu Mapila said that if left untackled,
water hyacinths could destroy the Kamuzu Barrage, a dam operated by
the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom). He said the
weeds may even force the river to change course, displacing people
along the way.
In an extreme scenario, the river could disappear entirely.
"I am not trying to be alarmist," he said, "but I know of the
Kafue River which dried up in Zambia."
Environment Minister Harry Thomson, after inspecting the extent of
the damage, suggested that Escom could flush the Kamuzu Barrage once
a week to break concentration of the weed, as constant opening would
make it flow down the river.
But Escom's senior engineer Dapper Chapalapata said this was not
economically viable. Constantly opening the barrage would damage
screens at power stations which may result in endless power
Mr Chapalapata said Escom had already spent $1.5m to repair damage
caused by the weeds.
The Fisheries Department survey blames the problem of water weeds
Environmentalists have ruled out chemically controlling the weed
as an option, saying that would cause long-term ecological disaster.
Other options include removing the weed manually or using machines.
In recent years the authorities in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzanian
have been battling against the spread of water hyacinths on Lake
Victoria. There scientists have found that one of the most effective
ways to control the weed has been the release of weevils that feed on
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