Fishermen and fisheries officer have warned about the emergence of new and dangerous weeds that are colonising some of Uganda’s major water bodies and threatens to cause far reaching health, social and economic consequences for the country.
Some of the new and very poisonous weeds at least to fish have been identified giant Salvinia Molesta, known locally as ‘Nankabirwa’ and Kariba which kill fish when eaten. The fishermen probably named the weed after the former state minister of fisheries Ruth Nankabirwa.
Agro-scientists have ranked this weed among the worst 100 invasive weeds in the world, according to the International Conservation Union (IUCN).
Researchers say that the weed which was first seen on Lakes Albert and Kyoga in 2013 reproduces through vegetative propagation and can double its population in two days upon getting a favorable habitat.
Recent reports show it has been also been cited along Lake Kimira, between Lakes Kyoga and Victoria in Bugiri district.
Bugiri District Fisheries Officer Immaculate Were says that the ‘Nankabirwa’ weed was ignorantly transported by fishermen to help them protect fish ponds from predators like birds and lizards.
Call for laws
Dr Fred Wanda Masifwa, a senior aquatic weeds research officer at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) says Uganda needs to outlaw the transfer or transportation of invasive weeds from one water body to another.
The current policy on control of invasive weeds only outlaws the growing and transportation of Water Hyacinth on Uganda’s water bodies.
But without such a law on other weeds, the country is destined for disastrous impacts to aquatic life, Dr Wanda adds.
“The current policy only talks about growing and transportation of some weeds that are said to be dangerous if consumed but very silent about the spread of some dangerous invasive, to mention Kariba weed specifically.”
The researchers are equally concerned about the free transportation of paper mulberry, spectacular cassia and the giant sensitive plants, all of which are listed globally as noxious weeds. They are usually used as ornamental and boundary markers in Uganda.
Jinja district production officer Stephen Kiwemba says production of milk from cows has been affected by, the giant sensitive plant, which grows alongside cattle pasture.
Anita Tibasaaga, a media and public relations officer at Uganda Bio sciences Information Center (UBIC) says the weeds and their effects can be avoided with the enactment of a particular law guiding its management.
“It is within this law that all the concerned parties including researchers can seek funding for research and appropriate measures for action,” Tibasaaga noted.
She added that there is also urgent need by government and all other concern partners in the fight against dangerous weeds to embark on sensitizing and empowering the public on the dangers of trans-locating such weeds.