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Breakthrough in Lake Victoria digital mapping

Kenya: Maritime experts from the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) have located a survey point after a two-year search and can now complete the development of a digital navigation map of Lake Victoria showing the ports of Kisumu, Mwanza and Port Bell.

Lake Victoria is shared by three countries: the northern half to Uganda, the southern half to Tanzania, and part of the northeastern sector to Kenya.

The experts from the Commission spent two years searching for the point, which was eventually found with the help of MMT Bathymetric, a survey company of Sweden, whose officials visited the British Admiralties Archives in Taunton, England, where information led to the eventual discovery.

The benchmark point, installed by UK-based firm Admiral White House in 1899, is situated at an altitude of 3,744.23 feet above mean low water level in Mombasa and co-ordinates were established based on information obtained from the archives. “We could not finalise the survey charts because of the missing survey point benchmark at Kisumu, which was decided by Partner States to be the reference,” said Gerson Fumbuka, a maritime and security officer at LVBC.

Fumbuka said that the objective of the maritime survey was to establish water depth by acoustic bathymetric survey report, describe the results from the survey and documentation of the work performed and evaluate the situation and conditions for future surveys. Further, he added that the results of the survey will be used to evaluate the current conditions of water depth, suggested actions and will provide data to support draft route selection for maritime lanes in Lake Victoria.

The position of the point in Kisumu 2009 (WGS84, GRS80) is as follows: Latitude – 0° 6.236’ S, Longitude – 34° 44.794’ E and Ellipsoidal Height- 1122.22.

Fumbuka said that the identification of the maritime point will be a starting point for a new level of accuracy in the charting of Lake Victoria. The datum in Kisumu was used for all charts in the three harbours (Port Bell in Uganda, Mwanza in Tanzania and Kisumu in Kenya) which were surveyed in this project.

The lake occupies a wide depression near the equator, between the East and West Great Rift Valleys, but its drainage basin is relatively small, being slightly less than three times the lake’s surface in area.

According to Richard Abila of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, the digital navigational map will also form a basis to lobby for formulation of appropriate laws to conserve and protect these endangered areas.

The digital map is expected to strengthen Kenya’s case as it prepares to petition the secretariat of the Ramsar Convention to designate parts of the lake basin as endangered areas that require special conservation efforts guided by principles of the international pact.

Source: The East African