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Contact:Prof. Dr. SS Chen

Address:Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology,CAS



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        Lake Tanganyika is one of the worlds great lakes and it is the largest water reservoir in Africa(18.800 km3). The lake is shared by four countries, Zaire (45%), Tanzania (41%), Burundi (8%) and Zambia (6%). It has an important role in the economies of these countries. Fish from the lake (85,000 tons/year) is a primary protein source, and there is a valuable ornamental fish export industry. There are about 36,000 fishermen on the lake, operating some 10,000 coastal canoe fishing units and 2,000 improved artisanal units. The export of ornamental fish to destinations around the world is an increasing business. The entire lakeshore population depends on the lake water for drinking and other domestic purposes. In urban areas, such as Bujumbura, water supply with treatment on municipal scales exist. A shipping transport system exists linking the main ports. This has long been established, but there are strong indications, that lake transportation is growing, and will become an important part of a transportation network linking countries of East, Central and Southern Africa. Oil is already transported (oil imports to Burundi are routed by the lake), and this will increasingly be the case especially if oil is produced in the basin. It possesses perhaps the highest biodiversity of any lake on earth. Over 1,300 species of fish, invertebrates and plants have been recorded, some 500 of which do not occur anywhere else. Many of these have no close relatives outside the lake basin, and are the result of a very long evolutionary history. The rich diversity of this ecosystem is of world-wide interest and importance.

        The lake is very vulnerable to pollution because of its natural characteristics. Serious environmental threats currently face the lake. The most immediate threats to the lake environment is pollution from excess loads of sediment and nutrients caused by erosion in the watershed, industrial and urban pollution including boat discharges, and intensive fishing with inappropriate methods. Unfortunately, the lake is especially vulnerable to pollution, as it is a closed basin with only one small river outlet, and almost all water loss is by evaporation. As a result, its flushing time, which is related to the renewal of water in the lake, is extremely long. This flushing time is longer than in any other great lake. As intensive oil exploration is underway, this raises the possibility of oil spills in the future, and leaks and losses of oil incidental to lake transportation have already occurred. Another serious problem is the long-term decline in the fish catch in areas where improved mechanized methods of fishing have been developed. These problems and their effects are increasing,and others cause great concern. Immediate attention is required to assess and control pollution and protect the natural resources of the Lake.

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