Improve this New Vision Article

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I have read your article in Today’s NewVision (19th April) and find it factually lacking –  Here is why:

1. You use very appealing photos, to allude to the abundance of Algae, but not in a moment do you care to find out the number of Algae depicted in the pictures. Its not enough for you to draw our attention to the Algae, lets get the numbers – exactly how much algae are there, at the shore, and at BOTH surface and depth intervals further out in the lake. Once you have this, then you need to go ahead and begin to discuss the implication of this algae to the micro-climate of where the sample was taken – for example, a high concentration in the top layers of the water system blocks sunlight to the bottom of the lake – then show us what that means for the rest of the lake system – because in fact as you allude to the cancers (frankly, in my opinion, a terribly hellish rabbit trail), you need to draw attention to how the dots connect to the cancers first.

2. The lake shores depicted in the picture are very close to a densely populated community, I used to live in Mutungo and now at the balcony of my office, I can see the shores where this picture was taken. A view from Namuwongo. What does it mean for this infestation to be in parts of the shoreline that are heavily populated? What are the immediate concerns these communities should have? You started with the cancers, but rightly so (even though its because we have not done the research), the Cancer Institute refutes any suggestions that reported Cancers have been attributed to the Algae in lake Victoria. Essentially, yo story alienates itself from the common man. No wonder it draws examples from a Chinese village – so far away. I would have expected to see what the effect of this algae is for the man depicted standing in the same heavily infested water? Does he stand risk of infections? If yes, which ones? And exactly How? Perhaps if he had skin lesions, that would pause entry of these microorganisms… Perhaps if he accidentally drank this water – if we can relate to the common man, then the story will meet the community at the point where its trying to help the same community.

The article says about how polluted water can be used for irrigation and how that could lead to contamination – lets enrich this argument. Lets get scientists out of the labs to tell us exactly how, polluted water, irrigated on the land can lead to microorganisms flourishing in a lake, survive on land and end up being absorbed in the food we eat. Lets not just say food is contaminated – lets say how! Perhaps the potatoes from Sesse will get a splash of algae filled water while being offloaded at Luzira – should we wash the potatoes? Bring this argument home.

Dangers of Harmful Algae Blooms and an example of Really Deadly Effects of Algal Blooms

3. So this Leachate that you discussed. Granted, its from improperly released waste – but you made no connection to the fact that any of the algae are surviving in the Lake because there is an actual source of such waste. The article makes an assumption of the source of this Waste. This lake might be the 2nd largest fresh water system in the world, BUT surely, Kampala has a very small shoreline. Can we actually pinpoint areas of Waste – moreover waste that ends up directly in the lake, so that we can associate this waste to the Leachate, and then the story will connect better.

So the book review section, actually if the article had started there, it might have been more interesting.  Why does the reporter go to the scary cancer stories while skipping the obvious? What does it mean to drink algae contaminated water? What really happens? I know, its easier to scare people towards the cancers, but in my opinion, skipping the “obvious” threats such as Fish contamination, and skin contact in these amounts of infestation is such a problem.

At the end, there is an upward twist, as if to atone for all the negativity, when you talk about Sea Weed. I have eaten Sea Weed, and enjoyed it thoroughly. And its nice that you highlight the medicinal positives too. Chlorella is only one of several edible Sea Weeds – See Wikipedia – What about the others? But you see, in order to list these, and connect them to the Lake that I will stand beside in a family wedding ceremony this weekend, you must have listed the dangerous Algae – and you must have listed the ones which are found in the water samples from the Lake!

Finally, how i wish you had labored to explain what needs to be done to get rid of the Algae. My botany notes suggest, that Elodea (Water plant) feeds on the same resources that Algae need to survive. Perhaps you could have explored the notion that communities nearest to the lake could in fact grow Elodea in small pots, and place this in the lake, so that they could in fact cause the Algae blooms to be significantly reduced. How about the fact that Pond snails and Tadpoles feast on Algae – could these be reared in the labs of International Health Sciences University, to be able gradually add these to the micro-system at the the shoreline in Luzira? I know a number of Students who might enjoy that for research, for which they could get academic rewards. And of course  not to mention whether its viable, feasible and sustainable.

Did you know for example, that aquatic submerged plants like algae are in fact not always only dangerous? During the day Algae algae in the lake produces oxygen. However at night, they consume oxygen and compete with the fish and other microorganisms for the limited supply of oxygen in the water. This is why fish die-offs for infested water systems usually occur in the early morning hours. Therefore it can be argued that a little aeration to replenish this oxygen especially in the nights, could go a long way in removing the algae by sustaining the organisms that will feed on it. Companies at the Luzira Shoreline (or indeed any other infested shoreline) could consitute an aeration project in their CSR, and give back to the conservation of the lake.

Mahatma Ghandi did mention as one of the seven deadly sins – Science without Humanity! As we save the lake, lets use the reporting to make it so practical and so relational to the next fisherman going to bring the next fillet for the baron!