Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Lake Jipe

United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya
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Lake Jipe, along United Republic of Tanzania's border with Kenya, is an important source of the Pangani River. As much of 75 per cent of the lake is infested by invasive aquatic plants, particularly cattails (Typha domingensis) and papyrus, or bulrush (Cyperus papyrus).

The bright green areas at the waters edge in the 1975 and 2005 images show these invasive plants covering parts of Lake Jipe. Coverage in 2005 is notably more extensive, especially at the northern end of the lake. The greyish patch there is evidence that the lake is actually drying up. Research indicates that if current conditions continue, the lake may dry up completely within the next ten years.

The situation in Lake Jipe is the result of a vicious cycle. Drought reduces water levels in the lake, creating conditions in which the invasive plants flourish. The plants, in turn, encourage siltation and help draw down water levels even further.

The Pangani River Basin provides water for hydroelectric power plants at Nyumba ya Mungu and Pangani Falls, which provide at least 20 per cent of United Republic of Tanzania's electricity. Increasingly low water levels in Lake Jipe and elsewhere have the potential to reduce power production. Low water levels have already affected the local fishing industry, forcing fishermen to move south to the Nyumba ya Mungu Dam. Projected water scarcity may also impact wildlife in Kenya's Tsavo National Park.
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