Lake Victoria, Africa : the Largest Tropical Lake in the World

Those of us who live in the UK are familiar with the image of Ireland and its relative size compared to the size of the joined lands of Scotland, England and Wales.

Image of the British Isles

In Africa, the largest lake is approximately as large as the island of Ireland. It was named Lake Victoria by a British explorer, John Speke in 1858. It is bordered by three countries namely, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. But before Colonizers arrived in Africa, it was a central hub for those animals and people who benefited from its plentiful surroundings. 

Image of the African Great Lakes

Graham and Lundelius (1984) claim that it is unlikely that humans have had much ecological impact on Africa’s megafauna because they have been known to coexist with them for a much longer time than on other continents. 

It is a shallow freshwater lake, lying within an elevated plateau, in the western part of The Great Rift Valley. It is the largest tropical lake in the world. 

Lake Victoria receives its water primarily from direct precipitation and thousands of small streams. The largest stream flowing into this lake is the Kagera River flowing from northwestern Tanzania near the Rwandan/Uganda border, the mouth of this river lies on the lake’s western shore.

Location of Lake Victoria

The important River Nile source is Lake Victoria. It was a momentous day for the first explorer who solved the mystery which many had tried to solve, risking life and limb to be the first to declare they had found the source of this great river.
From the largest tropical lake runs this longest river in the world. It flows down through Bujagali Falls, drains into Lake Kyoga and goes West across Karuma Falls, cutting through Murchison Falls and on toward Lake Albert (named after Queen Victoria’s husband) into and through what is now known as Uganda, Sudan and ultimately Egypt.

Image of Bujagali Dam for Hydroelectic Power

Above, image of Bujagali Falls

Above, image of Karuma Falls

Above, image of the building of Karuma Hydro Electric Project.

Hydroelectricity – retrospectively, despite years of building these dams, there is plenty of evidence that it is now an unsupportable strategy.. 
Image of the route of the Nile on its way to Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians prized and venerated the Nile River. It was their umbilical cord. Even today, a common Egyptian blessing is: “May you always drink from the Nile.” In that ancient time, perch fish grew bigger than the fisherman. The riverbank loam provided mud used for bricks and papyrus for books and boats.

The Nile River flooded annually. It saturated the parched land in water and life-giving black silt. The Egyptian word for black is Ar, thus they named the river Ar.

As they worked the newly fertile land after the flooding, the Egyptian farmers thanked the god Hapy and began their calendar anew.

When Egyptian dominance gave way, the Greeks christened the river, the ‘Nile’, from the Greek word Neilos, which means valley. The Greek historian Herodotus (circa 500 B.C.) wrote “A land won by the Egyptians and given them by the Nile.” 

Research led by Christian Tryon ( co-director of the Lake Victoria Prehistory Project (LVPP),has revealed:

Faunal and sedimentary evidence indicate that early humans in the Lake Victoria region lived in a landscape that was often quite different from the present, as Lake Victoria expanded or dried up in response to environmental and tectonic changes, and many animal communities had species compositions without modern analogue, including not only extinct species but also modern ones whose ranges today are substantially smaller than they were in the past.”

When Lake Victoria dried up, so would the Nile, and those who depended on its bountiful presence would no doubt be stricken with fear inducing rituals and sacrifices to ‘appease the gods’.

Freshwater is vital for all life on land, yet it can be withdrawn for many reasons. Since the march of industrial demand, water can be taken as a military backed action to preserve dominant societies and weaken others. Rivers can be diverted to build dams, hydroelectric power plants, or directed to feed cities and deprive rural indigenous people. Clean water is essential to the human population yet not considered as a human right by those few who wield power over the many in this increasingly resource challenged world.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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1 Response to Lake Victoria, Africa : the Largest Tropical Lake in the World

  1. Pingback: Egyptian Cotton, Linen and Bleach | borderslynn

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