The Lake Tanganyika basin is recognised globally for its unique richness of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, exceptional scenic beauty and high overall ecological and socio-economic value. The lake harbours over 1,500 species, out of which approximately 600 occur nowhere else in the world. Furthermore, the lake contains almost 17% of the world 's available surface freshwater, providing a permanent source of drinking water, as well as water for domestic use, industrial and agricultural development. It also supports one of the largest fisheries on the African continent with an estimate annual fish production potential in the range of 165,000 - 200,000 metric tonnes. Tourism is an important source of income that is directly linked to the lake and its basin, generating millions of dollars annually.
Lake Tanganyika's ecosystem is relatively healthy in comparison with other Great Lakes of the world. However, human population growth rates are among the highest on the planet, ranging from 2.0-3.2% annually. The current population in the lake basin is estimated to be between 12.5 and 13 million, and it is expected that the number of people who either directly or indirectly depend on the natural resources in the lake will increase significantly in the near future. Unsustainable fisheries, degradation of habitats through unsustainable agricultural practices and deforestation, erosion and sedimentation, pollution and biological invasions cause major threats to the integrity of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the Lake Tanganyika basin. The magnitude of these threats is expected to be intensified by the impacts of climate change.
On 13th July 2000, the governments of Burundi, Democratic Republic Congo, Tanzania and Zambia approved the first Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the Protection of Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of the Natural Resources in the Lake Tanganyika and its Basin. The original SAP, developed as part of an initial Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported intervention, formed the basis for new and continuing support from a range of international donors and organisations including the GEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Nordic Development Fund (NDF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). This new and continued support continues to make possible implementation of activities under the Lake Tanganyika Regional Integrated Management and Development Programme (LTRIMDP).
To adequately reflect the changes in magnitude and nature of threats to the biodiversity and natural resources in the lake basin over the past decade, the SAP requires regular updating. Both the drafting and updating of the SAP was done through an extensive process of stakeholder consultations, including representatives from local communities, commercial enterprises, national and international nongovernmental organisations, research institutions and universities, parastatal institutions and government ministries. Using data and knowledge derived from scientific studies and field experiences, these stakeholders identified and prioritised threats as well as solutions for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable management of natural resources in the Lake Tanganyika basin.
The SAP incorporates strategies for the riparian countries of Lake Tanganyika to achieve the overall vision: People of the region prospering from a healthy environment in the Lake Tanganyika basin that continues to harbour high levels of biodiversity and provides sufficient natural resources to sustain future generations. This vision is supported by six main environmental quality objectives intended to be achieved by 2035. For each objective, the SAP presents a set of specific targets that are subsequently broken down into a set of strategic actions. Successful future implementation of the SAP will depend on a number of general approaches and conditions. The ecosystem approach is recommended as a way to sustainably integrate management interventions focusing on water, land as well as human aspects.
Conditions that will need to be met to enhance the efficacy of SAP implementation include:
- Environmental education at all levels of society
- Socioeconomic development and appropriate governance
- Capacity building and institutional reform
- Effective information management