The Solution

Aquarius Systems is delighted to have won the World Bank Tender to chop 1500 hectares of water hyacinth in a 12 month period, using specialty equipment that we manufacture.  This equipment has been proven to be effective under varied harsh conditions.

Aquarius Systems will be working under the direction of the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project, (LVEMP).  Target areas include the Port of Kisumu, Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Port Victoria and Nya Koch Bay.  These areas will be addressed on an "as needed" basis, to be determined by the LVEMP project manager.

This project is being financed by a grant from the Global Environmental Facility through the International Bank for Reconstruction & Development, and a Credit from the International Development Association.

In response to the Tender specifications, our initial offer was to use three specially designed chopping machines called "Swamp Devils" to shred 1500 hectares of water hyacinth in twelve months.  During subsequent visits to the lake and after a meeting with local residents, we decided to voluntarily substitute one aquatic plant harvester and one shore based unloading conveyor for one of the Swamp Devils.  Now two Swamp Devils will be destroying the vegetation and one harvester will be collecting and removing a portion of the chopped debris.

The Swamp Devil is a heavy duty aquatic vegetation cutter that features two blades at the front which measure 2.4 meters across.  It has a 234 horsepower engine and can easily shred trees up to 15 cm in diameter.

The harvester has the ability to carry four tons of vegetation on board in a single load.  Depending on the weight and volume of the vegetation and the distance to the shore, the harvester can potentially remove 16 to 32 loads of chopped hyacinths in eight hours.  We intend to surround our work area with floating booms and use a GPS device to ascertain the acreage to be chopped each day.  This will make it easier for the harvester to drive around inside the boomed area to collect and remove chopped hyacinths.

Water hyacinth is made up of about 95 percent water and only 5 percent solids.  While the harvester will be used to remove much of the chopped hyacinth, a small amount will sink before it can be collected.  The plant matter left behind in the lake will slowly decompose, thus slowly releasing and recycling nutrients back into the water.  These nutrients were originally drawn from the water.  Lake Victoria is large enough and deep enough to quietly absorb the minor nutrient recycling that this project will engender.  No toxic substances are being introduced into the lake, and no new nutrients are being added to the water.

This is a very progressive project and Kenyans should be proud of the foresight that has gone into this operation.  In the recent past, the universal answer has almost always been to treat water hyacinths with herbicides, which was viewed as an instant solution.  However, the introduction of chemicals into Lake Victoria is unacceptable to the LVEMP and others concerned about the environmental health of the lake.

The mechanical method of weed management allows the user selective control; the equipment works only where you direct it to work.  Some immediate benefits will be providing fishing boats and ferries access to open water.  Other benefits include reduced vegetation growth and nutrient removal.

The LVEMP is hoping to experiment with developing a by-product for the chopped plants that are removed from the lake.  We suggest that the simplest and most cost effective solution in this case will be to compost the weeds for fertilizer.

One important consideration in the management of Lake Victoria is to understand that it took many years for the lake to get into the poor shape it is in, and it's going to take time to reclaim it.  The water hyacinth infestation is a devastating symptom of the serious water quality problems of Lake Victoria.

This contracting project is the beginning of a solution.  There is no instant fix, no magic pill, bug, chemical, machine, or technology that is going to make the problem go away quickly.  The focused and multi-faceted approach currently underway is the proper way to proceed with the lake restoration.  This chopping and removal program is a useful and productive technique in the Lake Manager's toolbox.  It is an exciting opportunity to locally test and measure the mechanical approach to hyacinth control on a large scale, in order to aid in future planning for the management of Lake Victoria.

The forward thinking of the LVEMP has been noticed and admired by others around the world who are anxiously following the Lake Victoria story.  This website will feature periodic updates and progress reports as the project moves forward.

Aquarius Systems truly appreciates the assistance and cooperation of all those involved to enable us to do the job we have come to do, and look forward to completing a successful, beneficial and environmentally sound project.