GNF - Threatened Lake of teh Year 2017 - Lake Tanganyika

Threatened Lake of the Year 2017: Lake Tanganyika

Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia

 Fishing boats at Lake Tanganyika

Press Release of the GNF about the Threatened Lake 2017


Interview with Mr. Emmanuel Nshimirimana
Executive Director of the Association Biraturaba, Burundi


French Documents


Communiqué de Presse de Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Le Lac Tanganyika, un lac de superlatifs, est le “Lac le plus menacé de l’année 2017”


Interview avec Mr. Emmanuel Nshimirimana
Directeur Exécutif de l’Association Biraturaba, Burundi

Global Nature Fund nominates Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia as the “Threatened Lake of the Year 2017". Sedimentation, pollution and overexploitation jeopardize the second largest lake in Africa. Containing almost 17 % of the world's available fresh water Lake Tanganyika is of global importance and source of life for millions of people. On the World Day of Wetlands, the GNF draws attention to the importance of lakes and wetlands all over the world. Together with the local Living Lakes partner organization Biraturaba, the GNF calls for sustainable measures to preserve Lake Tanganyika.


A Lake of Superlatives

Lake Tanganyika is habitat to more than 1,500 plant and animal species, of which 40 % are endemic that means they cannot be found anywhere else on the earth. This richness makes it an important biodiversity hotspot. With 1,470 metres it is the second deepest lake in the world and the second largest freshwater lake by volume, containing almost 17 % of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. With 673 kilometres, it is the longest lake in the world.


A growing human population entails serious problems for the lake

The Lake Tanganyika basin faces multiple challenges, resulting from the activities of rapidly expanding human populations in the riparian countries. One-tenth of the ten million people living in the Tanganyika basin, directly depends on fishery resources of the lake, about 100,000 of them being fishermen themselves.


Overexploitation of biological resources is threatening Lake Tanganyika. Overfishing leads to a dramatic reduction of fish catches. Between 1995 and 2011, the total fish stock has decreased by 25 %, while the number of fishermen increased fourfold. At the same time the harvest per fisherman and year decreased by 81 %.


The reduction in catches is mainly linked to overfishing. Indeed, surveys carried out in 1995 and 2011 showed that there has been a very large increase in the number of fishermen and the number of fishing boats, as well as a very large decrease in production. The number of active fishers increased from 44,957 in 1995 to 94,886 in 2011 (an increase of 111.06 % in 16 years); the number of fishing boats increased from 13,192 in 1995 to 28,212 in 2011 (an increase of 113.86 % in 16 years).


In the Burundian part, the number of fishermen increased from 2,021 fishermen in 1995 to 8,202 in 2011 (an increase of 305.84 % in 16 years); and the number of fishing boats increased from 1,408 in 1995 to 3,236 in 2011 (an increase of 129.83 %). Production in the Burundian part increased from 20,000 tons in 1995 to 15,000 tons (A decrease of 25 % due to overfishing); in terms of yield, production increased from 9.89 tons of fish per fisherman per year (1995) to 1.83 tons of fish per fisherman per year (2011).

 Lake Tanganyika is situated here.
 Sedimentation, where Rusizi River flows into Lake Tanganyika.
 Deposit of solid waste at the lake in Bujumbura
 Type of fishing boat at Lake Tanganyika
 Agricultural activities that reach the lake.
 Beach at the lake.
 Dwellings arriving the lake shore.

Moreover, the natural habitats around the lake are destructed by the expansion of land use for agriculture or construction. Inadequate agricultural cultivation practices in the lake basin lead to land degradation and erosion. As a result, sedimentation becomes a major threat to the lake. Water runoff from the mountain area along the lake (the Burundian part), carries an average of 100 tons of soil per hectare and year into the lake. The port of Kalemie (DRC) contains a quantity of 195,840 cubic meters of sand to be dredged.


Pollution is another major threat to the lake. Industrial, craft and domestic waste from the cities and villages along the lake are directly discharged into the lake without any pre-treatment. Pollution is also caused by transport on the lake and fishermen using oil for generators and lamps during night fishing. In addition, the lack of sanitation infrastructure at landing stages of fishing boats also contributes to pollution; only 14 % of sites have public restrooms.


Invasive species, especially the Water Hyacinth, are observed especially at the ports of Bujumbura (Burundi) and Kigoma (Tanzania). Water hyacinth can smother aquatic life by deoxygenating the water, and it reduces nutrients for young fish in sheltered bays.


A source of life shared by four countries

Given its global and local importance, special attention from the international community is needed. At the local level, the four riparian states have already established a cooperation framework called the Lake Tanganyika Authority whose secretariat is based in Bujumbura. Unfortunately, these four countries are among the poorest countries of the world and not able to handle the situation on their own. Coordinated support is essential to improve the situation of the Lake Tanganyika ecosystem and the living conditions of riparian communities. An important next step would be that the four riparian states harmonise their laws and regulations towards a sustainable management of Lake Tanganyika.



Pollution and sedimentation need to be reduced, the local population has to be made aware of the causes of problems they are facing every day and alternative sources of livelihood need to be developed for the local population.


In Burundi, Global Nature Fund already conducted two projects at Lake Tanganyika together with Biraturaba:


Reduction of Deforestation by Planting Trees and Introducing Improved Cooking Stoves


Clean Drinking Water for School Children


New project WASH

Following up with its previous activities in the field of WASH and its proven experience, Biraturaba will together with the GNF implement a of drinking water supply project in the village of Gitaza. Gitaza is located in the commune of Muhuta, 26 kilometres from the capital Bujumbura at the Tanganyika Lake shores. Gitaza suffers from a lack of drinking water, many households do not have toilets and defecate in nature, polluting the lake. Currently the population consumes water from Tanganyika Lake without any treatment. Due to this situation waterborne diseases are frequent. The project aims to improve the living conditions of the Gitaza population by suppling drinking water to the 800 households in the village, the 2.804 students from two schools, a health centre, a market and an artisanal fishing beach. The project also aims to develop an effective community management of Gitaza's drinking water infrastructure by the community, with technical support of the municipal water board.

 Former drinking water in Kagwema
  Water kiosk in Kagwema
 Tree nursery
 Pupils in Kagwema and tree plants



Association Biraturaba
Emmanuel Nshimirimana (Executive Director)
Bujumbura Mairie, Rohero I,
Avenue de l’Amitie, n°08
Bujumbura 6353, BURUNDI
Phone: +257 2225 7181


Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Udo Gattenlöhner (Executive Director)

Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4

78315 Radolfzell, Germany

Phone: +49 7732 9995 80

Fax: +49 7732 9995 88



 Übersichtskarte zum Tanganjikasee

Lake Tanganyika



32,900 km²

second largest African lake

sixth largest lake in the world



673 km (north / south)

world’s longest lake



max. 1,470 m

second deepest lake in the world

average 570 m


Water volume:

18,900 km³

world’s second largest freshwater lake by volume


Sea level: 

773 m